Ravel, Maurice. (1875-1937)
Important Autograph Letters and Telegram about his Rejection of the Legion of Honor
Two important autograph letters and one telegram from the great French composer to Lucien Garban (1877-1959), dealing with Ravel's 1920 refusal of the Légion d'Honneur and the beginning of the following "affaire Ravel." While Ravel was at the country home of his friend André-Ferdinand Hérold in Lapras in January 1920, his name appeared in a list of nominees in Le journal officiel - without his knowledge or consent. He created a stir by refusing the honor, only a few days later to find out that he had been put forward with the best intentions by Garban, his friend and a fellow member of the artistic group "Société des Apaches."
Apparently never considering accepting the medal - his reasons are still the subject of discussion - Ravel apologizes to Garban in his telegram and letters, and in the interest of preventing a scandal, suggests the nomination could be passed off as an official error. Nevertheless, his scorn for the institution and its formalities is discernible.
In the first letter, dated Lapras, January 20, 1920, Ravel learns that it is Garban who obtained for him the Légion d'Honneur: "Above all, you must forgive me. I have badly returned your kindness: my excuse is ignorance." Ravel has already telegraphed to the Minister and requested Vuillermoz "to put a small note in the newspapers, creating as little scandal as possible. I hope that my telegram will reach you in time, and the scandal can be avoided. (If possible, it seems to me an error of the official would be the most elegant solution.)" He goes on to discuss a matter of orchestration: "I've given some thought to the accusation about the bass drum. But how to do otherwise, especially here? Besides, I fortunately have other ways to use this instrument that should ward off any venomous comments ... And really I don't give a ... But Durand's letter has changed all that. Seeing the inextricable situation, I worked like a dog yesterday, putting the whole day into orchestrating one page, which that evening was found sabotaged. I had a horrible night. This morning your letter gives me some hope. Above all, I don't want anything bad to happen for you. If the news of my refusal is not yet widespread, so much the better, if we cannot arrange the matter in the way I suggest, or any other, too bad! I will just have to not wear the ribbon [...]. Tabuteau sees this news as a regrettable last-minute government maneuver, and finishes by shouting: Long live the clowns of the golden Legion!" 3 pp. on 2 sheets with original stamp and postmark. Folds, slight tears, one tape reinforcement, but overall legible and in very good condition. 4.75 x 7.5 inches (12 x 18 cm).
In the second letter, dated Lapras, January 29, 1920, Ravel has received the official notification of his nomination, but (he cites the official letter): " 'No one may wear the decoration until after its receipt.' So I will neglect to 'present myself before the Grand Chancellor to obtain the necessary authorization to be received and decorated' ... and it will all be over in the best way possible. [...] I do hope that this time my silence is not thought to be an oversight." 1 p. with original stamp and postmark on verso. Perforated edges and one fold; overall in fine condition. 4.5 x 5.75 inches (11.3 x 14.5 cm).
The telegram in question is included: "So sorry. If you can arrange for an official error for example I will be delighted." Stamped with the date January 1, 1920. Folds, toning and slight tears; overall in very good condition. 9 x 5 inches (23 x 12.5 cm).