Thursday March 7 at the beginning of the afternoon, in a radiant sun, passers-by at the top of rue des Martyrs near Pigalle were surprised to walk to the sound of the melodies of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Very quickly, the police blocked the street to allow more than 150 people to gather. In the crowd, we recognized the delicate Japanese pianist Marika Noda who was the student of Maurice Ravel’s only student and who recorded all of his work in Japan. In a blue scarf and matching parka, the writer Jean Echenoz was delighted to be there. Particularly elegant is director Fabien Caux-Lahalle, author of the fantastic investigative series But Who Killed Ravel’s Bolero? (**) arrived draped in a majestic coat, his mischievous look hidden behind sunglasses. “I tried to be as chic as Maurice Ravel,” he jokes.

After listening in silence to Maurice Ravel’s Kaddish that the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron played recently in tribute to the French victims of Hamas terrorists in Israel, it was time to proceed with the inauguration. Suddenly, Jean Echenoz, the associate professor, Manuel Cornejo, researcher on the author of the Bolero and president of the association of Friends of Maurice Ravel (*), Serge Touzelet his vice-president and Delphine Bürkli mayor of the 9th district of Paris (Horizons) accompanied by several children from the neighborhood brought down a heavy red velvet curtain. In the presence, among others, of opera singer François Le Roux, Anne Millon Fontaine, director of Maurice Ravel’s house museum and curator Philippe Huez, who rushed from Montfort-l’Amaury (Yvelines) where a gypsy jazz concert was held on the balcony of the ” Belvédère” had been played in the morning, a Carrara marble plaque appeared under the bravos six meters high to the right of the imposing blue wooden gate at 40 rue des Martyrs. “It’s fantastic,” commented an emotional Frédéric Gaussin, musicologist at the CNRS, surrounded by other Ravéliens specially from Biarritz and Saint-Jean de Luz, two other high places in the life of Maurice Ravel.

This is the fourth plaque in tribute to the composer in Paris and its suburbs at the initiative of the Friends of Maurice Ravel. The first was installed in 2015 at 11 rue Louis Rouquier in Levallois-Perret where the Ravels lived from 1904 to 1908, the second in 2019 at 21 rue d’Espagne near Saint-Lazare in Maurice Ravel’s favorite Parisian hotel in front of his close friends Godebski (Cipa is an important character in the film Bolero, played by Vincent Perez currently in the cinema). The third plaque was unveiled in 2021 at 19 boulevard Pereire where he lived from 1901 to 1904 near Claude Debussy.

This fourth plaque unveiled Thursday March 7, the date of the composer’s 149th birth anniversary in Ciboure in the Basque Country, recalls that he grew up there for his first five years. “He lived in the neighborhood until 1896 then from 1899 to 1901,” we can also read on the plaque. As was the case at the time, his little brother Édouard was born on June 13, 1878 in the family apartment nestled in the building in the backyard of 40 rue des Martyrs. According to archive photos, it is likely that Maurice Ravel went to the school on rue Milton just behind. Delphine Bürkli therefore invited schoolchildren to come and read extracts from the novel Ravel by Jean Echenoz published by Editions de Minuit. Also present, students from the 9th arrondissement Conservatory accompanied the ceremony with music. Later, the joyful crowd gathered for a friendly drink offered by the town hall in the green paved courtyard of the building then for a concert offered by the virtuoso pianist couple Arthur Ancelle and Ludmila Berlinskaïa at the Salle Rossini from the town hall near Drouot.

Scheduled the day after the release of the biopic Bolero by Anne Fontaine in the cinema with Raphaël Personnaz as the main actor and in the middle of the trial for the rights to Bolero at the Nanterre court, the whole ceremony was delicately designed to honor the memory of the famous composer. “The rectilinear characters of the “M” and “R” are a nod to the monogram chosen by Maurice Ravel for his correspondence and for his printed scores,” explains Manuel Cornejo in front of the large black and white portrait of the composer.

Last February, to bring the Bolero back into private law and therefore continue to receive rights from it until 2051, the lawyer for his heir Évelyne Pen de Castel and the Maurice Ravel estate insisted to the judges that Maurice Ravel does not He did not compose the Bolero alone but with the help of the decorator Alexandre Benois and the choreographer Bronislava Nijinska. The judges’ decision is expected at the end of June. The members of the Ravel Succession, including Evelyne Pen de Castel and Jean-Manuel Scarano, were conspicuous by their absence at this joyous ceremony.

(*) “Maurice Ravel, The complete: Correspondence (1895-1937) writings and interviews”, Manuel Cornejo (ed.), Le Passeur Éditeur, 2018, 1840 pages.

(**) “But who killed Ravel’s Bolero”, a fascinating series of nine episodes to watch on YouTube