From the "Pavane pour une Infante defunte" to "Bolero", much of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) is among the most accessible of any written during the last 100 years. The man himself, on the other hand, was notoriously difficult to get to know, partly because of his natural modesty and inherent reserve, but partly also because there were aspects of his character which he preferred to conceal even from his closest friends. It is Gerlad Larner's aim in this biography to trace the development of the composer's personality not only through events in his life and in the society around him, but also through his music, which is more revealing in this respect than is generally believed. Ravel tended to reveal most of himself at times of crisis, such as the outbreak of World War I in 1914 and the death of the mother he worshipped in 1917. "Adversity", the chapter devoted to those years, is a central feature in a book which begins by evaluating the importance of Ravel's mixed Basque and Swiss heredity and which then pursues the first part of his life through his childhood in Bohemian Montmatre, his controversial activities as a student at the Paris Conservatoire, and the establishment of his career as a composer fascinatingly interlinked with that of his older contemporary Claude Debussy. A moving description of his war service as a truck driver is followed by an account of the slow recovery from the failure in his health and morale after the death of his mother, the period of conflict and reconciliation with the new post-war movement represented by Erik Satie and Les Six, and a last decade of international celebrity which coincided with the gradual onset of illness which silenced him for four years before his death in 1937. This text is part of the 20th-century composers series, examining composers in a biographical context, and offering a comprehensive study of key figures in the creation of 20th-century music. None of the books in the series presume a knowledge of specialized terms or musical notation. Each book in the series features a list of works, a bibliography, and a discography.