Ricardo Viñes   (1876 - 1943)

Ricardo Viñes. Photo: Pierre Petit. Source: H.Jourdan-Morhange, 'Ravel et nous', Ed. du Milieu du Monde, 1945. Plate XX. The pianist Ricardo Viñes was born in Lerida in Catalonia. He became a fellow student and friend of Ravel ("ce garçon à cheveux longs") at the Conservatoire from 1889 onwards. He introduced Ravel to the works of many writers who were to be influential upon the composer, including Baudelaire, Verlaine, Mallarmé, Poe, and Huysmans. In the 1900s he was also a member of the Apaches. Léon-Paul Fargue recalled the contribution of Viñes at their meetings: "[il] métamorphosait le piano en un express-bar de délices" (Fargue [1949], p.52).

He gave the first performances of Menuet antique (1898), of Jeux d'eau and the Pavane (5.iv.1902), of Miroirs (1906), and of Gaspard de la nuit (1909). But friendship did not keep Ravel from criticising Viñes's playing of this last work, especially its second movement Le gibet: "...Viñes n'a jamais voulu exécuté ces pièces et singulièrement Le gibet de telle manière que l'auteur le désirait." (Orenstein, [1989], letter 191, to Calvocoressi).

Ravel dedicated to him the Menuet antique, and also the movement Oiseaux tristes in Miroirs, because "it was fun to inscribe to a pianist a piece that was not in the least 'pianistic'". (Calvocoressi [1933]).

Along with Jane Bathori, Ricardo Viñes was the most important of Ravel's interpreters in presenting his new works to the public. Léon-Paul Fargue described their friendship: "Ricardo Viñes, son ami d'enfance et d'adolescence, fut à la fois son ami et son interprète, toujours prêt à propager sa musique, à partager avec lui ses admirations ou ses découvertes littéraires. A l'encontre de beaucoup de virtuoses englueés dans leur art, notre cher Viñes avait une très bonne culture. C'est par lui que Ravel connut Aloysius Bertrand dont il devait illustrer trois poèmes." (Fargue [1949], p.33).

The first ten years of their acquaintance are covered in a diary kept by Viñes (Viñes [1980]).

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