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Interesting facts: Ravel

It’s one of the hallmarks of great composers that they’re not limited by the practices of their times. Their imaginations are enriched, but not hemmed in, by the traditions they inherit, and they tend to push boundaries.

Maurice Ravel was certainly a composer who pushed boundaries, including the technical boundaries that musicians faced when performing his music. The story goes that when Ravel was writing his Sonata for violin and cello, he invited the virtuoso cellist André Lévy, a good friend of his, to have a look at the cello part. Ravel asked Lévy if he thought it would be possible to play the cello part as written. Lévy took a good long look and said, “Well, Maurice, it’s very difficult.” To which Ravel replied, “I didn’t ask whether it was difficult, I asked whether it was possible.” I love that story for what it tells us about Ravel, about both his self-confidence and his humility, but also for how it reminds us of the courage and daring of all great creative artists.

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.