MAURICE RAVEL
A LIFE

By Benjamin Ivry

Welcome Rain Publishers

Copyright © 2000 Benjamin Ivry. All rights reserved.
ISBN: 1-56649-152-5



Chapter One


Birth to Conservatory

1875-1899


               Maurice Ravel was born in 1875 in Ciboure, asmall village in the Basque region of France, separated from thecity of Saint-Jean-de-Luz by the Nivelle River. The first thirty-fiveyears of the life of his mother, Marie Delouart, are a near-totalblank. She was apparently born in the Basque region and spentsome time in Spain, where she met Ravel's father. Biographersfound that locals of Saint-Jean-de-Luz did nor recall her beingborn there, and Manuel de Falla praised her knowledge of Spanish,which indicates that he did not take her to be a naturalspeaker of the language. But she would sing Spanish folk songs toMaurice, and these were a later inspiration for his work.

    Basque and Spanish women usually married young, but Marieapparently did not. A romanticizing biographer, Victor Seroff,suggested that Marie might have had children before she metand married Joseph Ravel, or a secret life as a "gypsy or even asmuggler": "A woman who wanted to hurt the composer," hesays, "once told him his mother's true age. Ravel was so horrifiedthat for a long time he could not get over it." And when Seroffasked Ravel's brother, Edouard, for information about his mother'searly years, Edouard said that he "saw no reason why [Seroff]should talk about their mother in a book about his brother." Inany case, Ravel's mother was a violent agnostic, atypical of hertime and place. As a widow, she was urged by a woman friend inSaint-Jean-de-Luz to come to church and pray; Marie said thatshe'd rather "be in hell with her family than in heaven all alone."

    When Ravel enlisted in the army during World War I, he describedhis mother as a "monster" who wanted to hold onto hersons and not let them enlist to fight for their country. But, he added,she was a "monster" he loved. In spite of, or perhaps because of,her blasphemies and obscure past, Ravel was a confirmed mama'sboy. The pianist Robert Casadesus recalled that his first sight ofRavel, in the early years of the century, was at a concert, tenderlyholding the arm of his aged mother, helping her to her seat.

    French biographers commonly assert that the fathers of greatmen were also great. Maurice Ravel's father, Joseph, was affectionate,with a highly developed love for music and culture, andhe did not object when his son embraced an artistic career,despite the family's lack of money. Joseph Ravel was not quite theinventing genius he has been portrayed as. He tinkered withinventions in the pioneer days of automobile construction, buthis most notable project was also his biggest failure. "The Whirlwindof Death," a loop-the-loop designed for circuses and autoshows in 1906-07, was displayed at Barnum and Bailey's Circus,but it flopped either because of a fatal accident, as one story hasit, or because its wooden framework was destroyed in a hurricanein Iowa in September 1907.

    Joseph was born in Switzerland, and earlier branches of thefamily bear variants of the name on public records: But for thechance slip of a Swiss notary's pen, we might be speaking todayof Boléro by Ravet or Ravex. A fantastic etymology of Ravel as aso-called Jewish name deriving from Rabbele [sic] was apparentlyinvented by Roland-Manuel as a joke and was long afterwardrepeated by gullible biographers. In 1873 Joseph Ravelwent to Spain as a civil engineer for a railway-construction job inthe New Castille province, and there he met and married thecomposer's mother. After Maurice was born, another son wasadded to complete the family in 1879; the rather faceless Edouardwas the composer's only brother. By then the family had movedto Paris, where Joseph was, as ever, seeking his fortune in industrialschemes.

    The Ravel family moved frequently around Paris, trying outhumble, if strenuous, business affairs. Workaholism ran in thefamily: After the deaths of his parents, Edouard Ravel movedinto the home of his employers at a small auto-parts factory, Mr.Bonnet, and his wife. Edouard was traumatized in body andspirit by army service during World War I that turned his hairwhite. In later photos he looks flabby and passive, a sedentaryman who adulated others, rather like Picasso's friend JaimeSabartés. Even in adulthood, Maurice called his brother bythe infantile nickname Douardouard. Ravel was known in hisown circle as Rara, and the composer's friends believed thatDouardouard's personality had been effaced by Rara's fame.

    Regional guides claim Ravel as a Basque composer, and hewould frequently return to his birthplace in later life. The sevenprovinces of the region are shared between France and Spain(three in France and four in Spain), and Ravel was attached to hisnative land, with its majestic mountain scenery and wiry, toughpeasants. The Basque region is known for the sport of pelota,bullfighting, and a tradition of witchcraft and demonology. In1608 Pierre de Lancre, a judge from Bordeaux, was named byHenri IV to investigate the troubling abundance of witches that"contaminated" the Basque country. De Lancre's report revealedthat sorceries were one way of expressing forbidden sexuality:the devil, when having sex with boys or girls, "took as muchpleasure in sodomy as in the most ordered and natural voluptuousness."Male witnesses admitted performing sodomy "toplease the devil," often with male relatives, one Basque man sayinghe did so "often in a passive way with [the Devil], oftenactively with other warlocks." Judges decided that the Basquewitnesses did not really believe in the devil, but simply desired tocommit adultery and sodomy, "and so they gathered, and thenaughtiest one among them pretended to be Satan."

    Ravel was very Basque in his use of sorcery as sexual camouflage,returning obsessively to the theme of witchcraft as a sourceof inspiration. In public and even among most of his friends,Ravel suppressed his sexual desires and used witchcraft as his forefathershad, as an emotional safety valve and a way of expressingforbidden feelings. So long as his parents lived, according tofriends who were aware of Ravel's homosexuality, he could notpermit himself to express his true nature.

    In Paris, the engineer Joseph Ravel enjoyed taking his sons ontours of factories, where they all admired machinery. Despite thefamily's money worries, Maurice had piano lessons at age seven,from Henry Ghys, a musician whose short-lived notoriety wasbased on the song Air Louis XIII. The boy also had lessons inharmony, counterpoint, and composition from Charles-René, astudent of the composer Léo Delibes (who wrote the balletsSylvia and Coppélia). Later, one of Ravel's great qualities as acomposer was to produce finished works, which seem to haveemerged whole from his brain. This early training in the basics ofcomposition, at the same time as he was learning the piano, nodoubt helped to develop the creative mechanism. Among hisearly exercises, Ravel was made to write variations on a choraleby Schumann and a theme from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt. ArbieOrenstein finds that these early efforts display "some awkwardwriting for the keyboard" but also have "a gentle, spontaneouslyricism."

    Maurice's progress as a piano pupil must have been rapid, ashe soon changed professors, moving up to the more distinguishedEmile Descombes, who taught such young virtuosos as AlfredCortot and the composer Reynaldo Hahn. When he was twelveyears old, Maurice met another youngster who would be a closefriend, the pianist Ricardo Viñes. Later described by FrancisPoulenc as a "strange hidalgo," Viñes was a brilliant keyboardartist, much interested in romantic literature; he lent Mauricebooks like Aloysius Bertrand's Gaspard de la nuit. Viñes describedthe young Ravel as looking "like a Florentine page,standing straight and stiff, with bangs and flowing black hair....His delicate Basque face with its pure profile was graceful andthin atop his slender neck and narrow shoulders."

    Ravel and Viñes spent hours leaning over the balcony of theRavel family apartment on the rue Pigalle, overlooking a caféwhere artists would gather and models would flirt with them.The boys tried to guess which model would wind up with whichartist, and this early sexual sophistication belies the impressiongiven in some biographies that Ravel was a lifelong innocent.Leaning over a balcony voyeuristically would become a typicalRavel pose, and a number of photos show the adult composerwatching what is going on below, while keeping his distance fromthe action.

    A portrait of Maurice from this time shows curly hair andlarge liquid eyes that might seem exaggerated if we did not knowfrom photos that his eyes were indeed that liquidly expressive.Maurice was clearly considered the beauty of the family, takingafter his mother; a portrait of Edouard, made about this time,shows a stolid, potato-faced youngster. Ravel's satisfaction in hisown appearance would develop into time-consuming narcissism.

    In 1889 a group of Emile Descombes's pupils, including Cortot,Hahn, and Ravel gave a public performance; Maurice playedan excerpt from the Piano Concerto no. 3 by Ignaz Moscheles, avirtuoso pianist and friend of Felix Mendelssohn, who wroteeight piano concertos, of which the third, written in 1820, wasthe most popular for its early Romantic, pre-Chopin style. Ravelalways referred to 1820 as his ideal historical period, and hewould later own an Erard piano made in that year, with a dry,hard tone that doubtless influenced the works he wrote on it.

    In 1889 Paris was astonished by the Eiffel Tower, built for theExposition Universelle, the World's Fair that included among itsattractions Rimsky-Korsakov conducting his own works, gamelanorchestras, gypsy bands, and music groups from Russia,Sudan, Serbia, and Romania. The exposition meant to show thatalthough Europe was embroiled in an arms race, science was notonly for destruction, and war "not the highest purpose of humansociety." The Champs de Mars below the Eiffel Tower was filledwith industrial exhibits, like the Galérie des machines, whichmust have fascinated the Ravel boys. Displays offered views ofdistant lands and peoples, and on the Esplanade des Invalides,natives from a so-called Aissaova tribe entertained passersby bysticking their hands into flames, and piercing their tongues, eyesockets, and abdomens with spikes.

    Amid such thrills, the fourteen-year-old Ravel auditioned forthe Paris Conservatoire, playing the piano for faculty includingthe head of the institution, Ambroise Thomas, the composer of theoperas, Mignon and Hamlet. Although Ravel was accepted as apupil and recognized as a gifted pianist, it was noted that he camelate to class and was often distracted. He competed three timesfor prizes in harmony and piano but did not win. However, heenjoyed socializing with Viñes, playing four-handed piano works,and discussing favorite books. He was intrigued with Symbolistaesthetics early on, and the books he read remained importantinfluences for the rest of his life. Ravel was secretly bookish, hidingwhat he read from most friends. His favorites included Villiersde l'Isle-Adam's L'Eve future, Barbey d'Aurevilly's Du dandysmeet de George Brummel, and Les Diaboliques, J. K. Huysmans's Arebours, and the writings of Edgar Allan Poe as translated byCharles Baudelaire.

    Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's L'Eve future, from 1886, is set in thelaboratory of Thomas Alva Edison in Menlo Park, New Jersey,where the inventor laments that his phonograph arrived too lateto capture history's key moments. Edison builds a female robot,Hadaly, from wires with "two phonographs of gold" for lungs,and a cylinder on which her gestures are recorded. Ever fascinatedwith machines, Ravel later toyed with setting E.T.A. Hoffmann'sstory of the mechanical doll Olympia.

    Barbey d'Aurevilly, another of Ravel's favorite authors, livedwith the writer Jean Lorrain, who was called "Jehanne la bonneLorraine," a jokingly camp reference to Joan of Arc. Both likedto wear makeup and elaborate costumes, with Lorrain piling onthe jewelry, tinting his moustache with henna and gold powder,and signing newspaper articles "Mimosa" and "Stendhaletta." InA un diner d'athées, a novella from Barbey's collection Les Diaboliques,a sadist named Major Ydow, who looks like an emerald-eyedbust of Antinous, the Emperor Hadrian's companion, sealsup his lover Rosalba's sexual organs with boiling wax. In another,"La Vengeance d'une femme," a duchess-turned-prostitute pliesher trade in Ravel's home area of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, which musthave given the boy a thrill. Du Dandysme et de George Brummelmade an even greater impression on the young Maurice, whobegan to look and act like a dandy, as that breed was defined byBaudelaire, Huysmans, and Barbey d'Aurevilly himself. Sincealmost every reminiscence of Ravel would cite his dandylikeappearance, it is important to explore the sources for this consciouslyfabricated personality which lasted his whole life.

    In Barbey's essay on Brummel, the dandy's features are described:glacial wit; the appearance of total self-control; sober and rigid elegance;an ability to wound others with words and ignore his victims'discomfort. Ravel would later conform to this behavior insocial situations, inspired by eighteenth-century British dandieslike Brummel or Horace Walpole.

    Ravel drew some elements of his persona as dandy from theworks of Edgar Allan Poe, as translated by Baudelaire. Jean-PaulSartre suggested that Baudelaire's myth of the dandy conceals nothomosexuality, but exhibitionism. Yet Oscar Wilde and other gaywriters advanced a tradition of the androgynous dandy. The essayistJules Lemaître noted, "The dandy has something against nature,something androgynous with which he can endlessly seduce."

    Huysmans called another of Ravel's favorite books, the novelA rebours, "vaguely clerical, a bit pederastic," and its chief character,des Esseintes, a "Christian and pederast, impotent man andunbeliever." The effeminate des Esseintes provided a role modelto a generation of aesthetes and dandies who, like him, retired totheir neurotic collections of books and artworks. Viñes oncereferred to Ravel's "mixture of medieval Catholicism and satanicimpiety," which is closer to a description of des Esseintes than tothe agnostic Ravel.

    To young Maurice, Poe was a double influence, not just as adandy but also as a creative theorist. He cited Poe's essay, "ThePhilosophy of Composition," as the most important lesson heever received about composing. In it, Poe stated, "Every plot,worth the name, must be elaborated to its dénouement before anythingbe attempted with the pen." This became Ravel's approachto composition, thinking everything out in his head before settingpen to paper. It presumed an intense mental effort and constantpressure, conscious and unconscious, during the creative act. Poedescribed his writing of "The Raven" step by step "with the precisionand rigid consequences of a mathematical problem." Ravelliked to tell students, "I do logarithms," to arrive at compositionalsolutions. Both Poe and Ravel assumed this pseudoscientificposture as a way of disciplining creative frenzy that theyfeared otherwise might go uncontrolled; the need for discipline increativity obsessed both men.

    They also agreed about the ideal length of creative works. Inan essay Ravel treasured, "The Poetic Principle," Poe maintainedthat a poem can only sustain its excitement for a half-hour, "atthe very utmost." With few exceptions, this was also the time-limitof Ravel's compositions, if only to make it possible for himto hold an entire work in his head before setting it down onpaper. Poe stressed that beauty was more important in poetrythan truth, which was better suited to prose. Ravel would ofteninsist that in any artwork, beauty was paramount.

    While mulling over such artistic questions, he continued hisstudies. In February 1893, while he was still at the Conservatoire,Ravel went with Viñes to pay homage to a musical hero,Emmanuel Chabrier. The two teenagers were cordially received,and Chabrier listened carefully to their playing of his Trois valsesromantiques, but interrupted them so often with conflicting andvaried criticisms that they left his home "completely bewildered."Chabrier noted in his address book: "Ravel (M. Maurice)pianist, 73 rue Pigalle," but a week later he had an attack ofparalysis that prevented further contacts. Later, Ravel would alsoperplex students who came to play his works with unexpectedopinions and advice. At about the same time, Maurice met ErikSatie through his father, who knew the Montmartre composer,then eking out a living as pianist at the Café de la NouvelleAthènes. Satie gravely consulted with Ravel and Viñes about hisplan to set newspaper advertisements to music, writing minisculeorchestrations to texts from the want ads.

    In 1893 Ravel wrote the piano piece Sérénade grotesque, muchinfluenced by Chabrier, and the song Ballade de la Reine morted'aimer in the Satie vein. Sérénade grotesque, marked "verypizzicato," was the first of Ravel's portraits of a grotesque, tragicomicpersona fitting awkwardly into the role of lover. The Balladede la Reine morte d'aimer, set to a poem by the Belgianwriter Roland de Marès (1874-1955), was a mournful ditty, withits "little bells of Thulé" that play a "supreme Hosanna" for aBohemian queen.

    The following spring, Ravel met the composer Edvard Grieg atthe Montparnasse apartment of friends, where Ravel playedGrieg's Norwegian Dances on the piano. Grieg stopped him, saying,"No, young man, not like that at all.... It's a peasantdance." Ravel started to play again and Grieg leaped around theroom in an authentic peasant dance, creating a memorable sceneof an elfin pianist and a tiny troll dancer.

    In August 1895, Ravel returned to composition with a settingof "Un grand sommeil noir," a poem by Paul Verlaine, whichremained unpublished during the composer's lifetime. He set onlytwo poems by Verlaine, who was much more the poet of Debussyand Fauré, and Un grand sommeil noir starts off in a sunlessMussorgsky mood, describing in bass notes how a "vast darksleep falls on my life." Ravel's first significant piano work, theHabanera for two pianos, was finished in November 1895 andlater given orchestral form as the third movement of Rapsodieespagnole. In the same month, Ravel wrote his first published work,Menuet antique. The title is a paradox, uniting an eighteenth-centurydance to an ancient Greek sensibility. The Menuet antiqueis saucy, like a naughty Fragonard painting, rococco yet withearthy passion. A pounding, pulsing rhythm of Pan's dance isgiven to harmonies that sound tantalizingly like those of Bach'sChaconne.

    The lore of Pan permeated Ravel's work from this earlyMenuet antique through Daphnis et Chloé and beyond. The publishedmusical score of Menuet antique showed an image of a bare-chestedPan playing his pipes. Ancient Greek imagery in artrepresented for the generation of Decadents a revival of the Arcadiantradition, including sexual freedom. In Arcadia, Pan expressedviolent sexuality through music. The ancient Greeks used theexpression "to honor Pan" to mean male homosexual activity,and Panic love, like Panic fear, was violent, sudden, and unforeseen.Dance and music were essential occupations of this animalisticleaper, deformed and unhappy in love, whose music could beirresistibly charming. Panic fear was often present in armies duringwartime, and all-night initiatory festivals of Pan were markedby special cries and music to exorcise fears and phantoms.Deeply imbued with this mythological lore, Ravel's works oftenembody the Panic ideal.

    Ravel finished two more songs in December 1896: "Sainte,"set to a poem by Stéphane Mallarmé, and D'Anne jouant del'espinette, to words by Clément Marot. Sainte, which waspublished only in 1907, is like a soft-toned Puvis de Chavannesportrait of a woman saint. The writer Vladimir Jankélévitch sawSainte as evidence of Ravel's "esoteric" period, influenced bySatie's Rosicrucian music. Sainte is atypically simple and directand may have been intended as an homage to his mother asdomestic saint, a "female musician of silence" as he called her.Ravel often stated how vital was his mother's quietly loving presence,calling her his "only reason for living." The song soundsunusually sincere, given that Ravel was already formulating hisself-image as insincere dandy.

    The two works written in 1897, Sonate pour Violon et Pianoin one movement, and Entre cloches, for two pianos, show theinfluence of Gabriel Fauré and César Franck. Entre Cloches wasjoined to Habanera to make up the two-movement Sites auriculaires.Meaning literally "places which can be sensed by the ear,"the title sounds medical, echoing Satie's parodic titles. Ravelenjoyed surgical-sounding expressions, especially if they also hada potentially erotic ring; eating cherries one day, he told thepianist Gaby Casadesus they were a "buccal pleasure." TheHabanera begins tentatively, as if timidly knocking on the door.There is a comic disjunction between the proud Spanish themesand the mock-shy way they are treated, rhythmic passages presentedwith hesitation, as if they needed to be obstinately learned.This approach, akin to the humor of Chabrier and Satie, is at severalironic removes from Spain.

    The Sonate pour Violin et Piano in one movement is aboutfourteen minutes long, written in the style of the Franck. Ravelhad not yet developed the theory that the piano and violin were"essentially incompatible," and the early sonata is full-hearted,lush music on exalted heights of emotion.

    In autumn 1897, Ravel was offered a job teaching music inTunisia, which he turned down in order to stay close to his familyand friends. Not going to North Africa meant opportunitiesmissed for personal development and for a full investigation ofArab themes. Ravel's fascination with such subjects was alwaysat a remove. Undiluted experience with the Arab world might nothave offered him the artificiality he craved.

    One danger of real contacts with North Africa was illustratedby Camille Saint-Saëns, Fauré's teacher, who was plagued byblackmailing letters from North African men he paid, apparentlytoo little, for sex. Saint-Saëns received a series of such letters, likeone in 1893 from a young Algierian named Victor Dumesnil:"Maybe there are pederasts of your kind in Paris whom you supportwith bits of bread, but it won't be the same with me....You're a liar, a thief, and a pederast." Ravel would avoid thiskind of experience, common at the time.

    Meanwhile, a faculty shake-up at the Conservatoire had resultedin the resignation of Jules Massenet as professor of composition,and the hiring of Gabriel Fauré to fill his place. At the time, Fauréwas still considered a radical, whose works were of spiky difficultyto traditionalists. Still tinkering at his Requiem, which he wrote"for pleasure," Fauré was an open-minded and warm teacher.Very much of his time, Fauré still managed to keep a certain independencethat would prove a good model for his most famouspupil. Although he admired Wagner and made a pilgrimage toBayreuth, Fauré allowed no audible influences from the Germancomposer to enter his music. At the turn of the century, Fauréremained stubbornly devoted to writing intimate chamber works,even when most of his contemporaries sought larger-scale canvasesfor self-expression. Never abandoning the quality of tenderintimacy, Fauré's works remain among the most endearing ofmodern French music, and Ravel would certainly learn from thisexample. Yet some of Fauré's later works, particularly the onesfor piano solo, retain a mystical quality that transcends mereGallic charm. Ravel was happy to join Fauré's class in 1898, andin a typical anecdote that he enjoyed repeating, Fauré at firstrejected one of his works, then asked Ravel to bring the work toclass again. When he asked why, the teacher's answer came: "Imight have been wrong." Fauré's pupils included GeorgesEnesco, Charles Koechlin, and Raoul Laparra, and Ravel woulddedicate to Fauré such later works as Jeux d'eau and his stringquartet. Even after Ravel was definitively excluded from the listof students at the Conservatoire in 1900, he continued to auditFauré's class until 1903. He also carried on his private lessons incounterpoint and orchestration with André Gédalge, who taughtfugue as well, counting among his students Arthur Honegger,Darius Milhaud, and Florent Schmitt. Ravel later wrote thatGédalge was the first to make him realize the importance of structurein composition, and of technique, not just as a "scholasticabstraction." With an unusually clear teaching method, Gédalgefocused mainly on the works of Bach and Mozart, at a time whenthis was uncommon.

    In his first year under the new regime at the Conservatoire,Ravel wrote two songs, Chanson du rouet, to a poem by Lecontede Lisle, and Si morne, after Emile Verhaeren. Chanson du rouet[Spinning song] is in the tradition of Saint-Saëns's Rouet d'Omphaleand Schubert's Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel, but it ishampered by a weak text. Si Morne is heavy with Symbolistdepression, describing a "mouth acrid with molds ... Rotting,hugely swaddled in ennui." Ravel set this text with urgency, perhapsas an expression of his stiflingly overprotected home life.

    The same year, 1898, saw his first work written for full orchestra,the overture, Shéhérazade. The 1001 Nights provided for thecomposer an atmosphere of Eastern sexual liberation, amongother things. A number of stories in the collection joke abouthomosexuality, particularly the comic pederast Abu Nuwas, alsoone of the great Arab poets, while other characters like to "eatboth figs and pomegranates," a metaphor for bisexuality. GérardPirlot has written about Sheherazade's essential "perversity,"using words to achieve unconscious occult powers at night. Talkingall night, Sheherezade saved herself and a king who waswounded by a wife's infidelity with a "well-hung black slave moreviril than he," Pirlot explains, "on whom he projects fantasies ofpassive homosexuality." As for Ravel, he would tell friends, "I onlybegin to live at night," and as a nocturnal creature, he used music forsome of the magical purposes Sheherezade aimed at with words.

    Whatever his desires for liberation, at the Conservatoire Ravelwas an exuberant joker. He would breeze into the classroom inthe teacher's absence and strike up a parody on the piano, settingthe words from the aria "Pourquoi me reveiller?" from Massenet'sWerther to the tune of "Tarara boom-de-ay!," a turn-of-the-centuryhit. "Tarara boom-de-ay!" had a naughty reputation, sungat cabarets where girls tossed up their skirts, and Rara was a fanof this song, which contained his nickname in its title.

    On March 5, 1898, Ravel had his public début as a composerwith a performance of Sites Auriculaires at a concert sponsoredby the Société Nationale de Musique. Reading from the score, theperformers Viñes and Marthe Dron came to grief during the technicallychallenging Entre cloches section. Another significant premierefollowed in April, when Viñes played the Menuet antique ina recital of new music. Fauré occasionally took his students alongto posh salons, like that of Madame René de Saint-Marceaux,where Debussy, André Messager, and Vincent d'Indy were alsopresent. Madame de Saint-Marceaux mused over the impassiveRavel in her diary: "Is he pleased to hear his music? You cannottell. What an odd fellow." Ravel was once obliged to improvise atthe piano when the American dancer Isadora Duncan performed,an experience he did not enjoy. In August 1898, Ravel wrote toMadame de Saint-Marceaux, referring to himself as a "musicalAlcibiades." The French historian Henry Houssaye describedAlcibiades as a lovely young man surrounded by perverse malefriends who wanted to have sex with him, but he only accepted lovefrom one man, Socrates. Ravel, in referring to himself as Alcibiades,or "Alkibiade," as he spelled it, did not specify who hisSocrates was. But his favorite Du Dandysme et de George Brummelstated that dandies were "Androgynes of history, no longerof Fable, among whom Alcibiades was the most beautiful."

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