Music Initiative: Revealing Ravel
Donor generosity paves way for memorable premiere.
The first manuscript D. J. Hoek, head of the Music Library, acquired after arriving at Northwestern in 2004 was of an unpublished, never-performed Fugue in F Minor by Maurice Ravel.
Composed circa 1897, when Ravel was a student at the Paris Conservatory, the piece was strikingly different from the rich, mature works such as Bolero and Daphnis and Chloe for which Ravel is best known. It was clearly, says Hoek, “a glimpse into the training of a young composer who, through carefully crafted exercises like this, attained a mastery of technique that he applied imaginatively throughout his life.”
A few months after the acquisition, Keith Clifton, associate professor of musicology at Central Michigan University, was doing research in the Music Library when he introduced himself to Hoek. Clifton explained that he was a Northwestern alumnus and that he wrote his dissertation on Ravel.
“I told Keith, ‘I have something to show you,’” Hoek recalls.
Together they looked over the manuscript and talked about the possibility of presenting the piece’s world premiere at Northwestern.
Five years later, on April 15, that goal was realized when a quartet of music students played the piece for the first time to a packed audience at Lutkin Hall in a performance that was sponsored by the Library Board of Governors and the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music. The event was recorded by the radio station WFMT for broadcast the following day and filmed by the Big Ten Network for a program this fall. The score, as transcribed by Clifton, will be published later this year with a color facsimile of the original manuscript and essays by Clifton and others.
At the performance Hoek said that besides being a landmark musical event, the evening epitomized the spirit in which the Music Library goes about building its world-renowned collections.
“The value of a manuscript, or any other item in the library,” he said, “truly isn’t realized until a researcher connects with that item and discovers something meaningful. Or to say that another way: We do not build collections for the sake of building collections; we build collections for the sake of making connections.”
This purchase was made possible in part by the generous support of the James A. and Sally Ann Hagan Endowed Fund for Music.