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Lot #371
Maurice Ravel Autograph Letter Signed - written while on leave during World War I

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Estimate: $600+
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World War I-dated ALS in French, penned on the reverse of a 5.5 x 3.5 French Republic postal card, postmarked in Paris on April 5, 1915. Handwritten letter to Edwin Evans of London, discussing his military career, with references to Ma mère l'Oye and the Piano Trio. Ravel, then on leave, writes, in part (translated): “I have barely any free time, even if I hardly do anything at the 13th Artillery other than to attach my nomination to the position of an air-bombardier.” In a deliberately cryptic reference to his suite Ma mère l'Oye (whose title he refers to in English), Ravel writes “The captain of ‘my mother goose’ is consoling himself for the mishap which occurred to his ship whilst hoping that later on he will be present at its launch — unless he has taken the great dive himself before then.” He concludes with a more straightforward musical reference: “The trio cannot come out for another month. You will know as soon as it does.” In fine condition. Accompanied by a full letter of authenticity from PSA/DNA.

Ravel had joined the Thirteenth Artillery Regiment as a lorry driver in the previous month at the age of 40, although his real aspiration had been to join the Air Force, for which he felt his diminutive size suited him. The reference to Ma mère l'Oye is presumably deliberately coded so as not to catch the eye of the military censor but may be interpreted as meaning that he (the captain of "my mother goose") is disappointed at not being able to join the Air Force, but has not yet given up hope. Ravel had finished his Piano Trio in a flurry of activity at the outbreak of the War, and it was performed for the first time in January 1915. The music critic Edwin Evans (1874-1945) had grown up in France and was a specialist in French and Russian music.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts
  • Dates: #680 - Ended December 06, 2023

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