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Late Style and its DiscontentsEssays in art, literature, and music$
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Gordon McMullan and Sam Smiles

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198704621

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198704621.001.0001

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Ravel’s Timeliness and his Many Late Styles

Ravel’s Timeliness and his Many Late Styles

(p.158) 10 Ravel’s Timeliness and his Many Late Styles
Late Style and its Discontents

Barbara L. Kelly

Oxford University Press

Ravel’s late style was perceived, even provoked, by his contemporaries; he came to be very conscious of his artistic ageing. This chapter argues that late style is not just about proximity to later life: lateness came to Ravel in middle age because of the historical trauma of the First World War. His later works show certain characteristics associated with ‘late style’; in other respects, his case works against stereotypes of lateness. Ravel’s late period is not one of untroubled productivity; rather, it is aesthetically inconsistent, eclectic, and psychologically revealing. The chapter shows Ravel’s lifelong unwillingness to conform to international expectations: his late Concerto in G limits rather than celebrates his achievement and can be read as a sign of independence, if not of defiance. Late style tells us a good deal about Ravel, about the time in which he created, and about the impact epochal events have on artistic output.

Keywords:   late style, First World War, ageing, aesthetics, eclecticism, nostalgia

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