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|Assunto: Estorias da Música - Pobre RAVEL!!! Ter Abr 24 2012, 15:49|| |
È no mínimo curioso...
Everyone knows he wrote one of the most popular pieces of classical music in the world. What no one knows for sure is where the profits from all those performances have gone. Jon Henley investigates the mystery of the missing Bolero millions
The Guardian, Wednesday 25 April 2001
It is an odd, angular little house, perched above the village of Montfort-l'Amaury like the prow of a ship or, as a mischievous-minded pupil once put it, a badly-cut slice of Camembert. Maurice Ravel bought it with the aid of an inheritance in 1921, did it up at no little expense - it had neither running water nor electricity - and decorated it to his taste, which is to say meticulously and almost mathematically, if rather eclectically.
The composer loved it because it was close enough by train to Paris to allow him to indulge his liking for bright lights and the big city, but at the same time calm and secluded, within a short ride of Rambouillet forest where he walked when his work and the weather permitted.
Possibly the world's most frequently performed piece of classical music was written in this house, in 1928. Composed in haste for a dancer friend, Ravel's Bolero has been used in countless ad campaigns, by Torvill and Dean for their perfect gold medal performance at the 1984 Winter Olympics, and equally memorably as the accompaniment to the rhythmic writhings of Dudley Moore and Bo Derek in 10.
Bolero - which Ravel insisted reflected his fascination for the well-oiled pounding of heavy machinery, but in which others have seen a "veritable hymn to desire" and an "exaltation of the erotic" - is, apparently, played somewhere in the world every 15 minutes. It has been one of France's top three musical exports, classical and contemporary combined, for decades.
Tugged along by its insistent theme, repeated 18 times and cited by at least one psychologist as evidence that the composer was suffering from Alzheimer's, Ravel's oeuvre has generated literally millions of pounds in rights. Most of his work will not be in the public domain until around 2015; it currently brings in around £1.5m per year - at a rough estimate, £40m to date.
What Claude Moreau would like to know is where all that money goes.
The composer's house, Belvedere, is open to visitors most afternoons; 3,000 make the pilgrimage every year. Moreau, the sprightly curator, shows them round its tiny interior (Ravel was just over 5ft 1in tall) and lets them admire his rosewood piano and stare at the bric-a-brac with which the composer, a compulsive collector, filled his glass-fronted cabinets.
The house is more or less as he left it on his death, during brain surgery in 1937 to tackle the degenerative disease from which he had suffered for a decade. It is full of surprises, from Dadaist teacups with holes in the bottom to a porcelain ashtray bearing the words: "Who burnt my table-cloth?"
But there are other, less joyful surprises. The carpets are rotting and threadbare, the silk curtains disintegrating, the ceilings cracked. The pipes burst years ago and downstairs, in Ravel's bedroom, water damage has wrecked the handpainted wallpaper and left bulging, crumbled masonry. The electricity isn't up to scratch and the whole house needs a new roof.
It wouldn't take much money to put it right; probably quite a bit less than what Bolero alone earns in a year. But with all that rights money washing around, the French national museum service doesn't want to pay. Nor, sadly, do the recipients of all that rights money - who are not at all who you might expect them to be. And in the meantime, Belvedere rots.
The story of the missing Bolero millions is one of the greatest artists' rights sagas in history. It is a tangled tale, with all the right ingredients: manipulative confidants, machiavellian machinations, a rewritten will and scheming lawyers.
It starts with the death of Ravelito, as his close friend, the writer Colette, called him. Unmarried and childless, the composer left everything to his brother Edouard, who turned the house at Montfort-l'Amaury into a museum, with - a nice detail, this - Celeste Albaret, who had been housekeeper to no less than Marcel Proust, as its rather idiosyncratic concierge. All seemed in good hands until the day in 1954 when Edouard and his wife were involved in a horrendous car accident. In need of constant help, the couple engaged Jeanne Taverne, a 48-year-old nurse, and her husband Alexandre, a former miner and barber, who acted as their chauffeur. When Edouard's wife died two years later, the Tavernes moved in, never to leave.
In 1957, Edouard Ravel made a rare trip to Paris for the 20th anniversary of his brother's death. To universal satisfaction, he announced his intention of making over 80% of the composer's rights to the city of Paris, with the idea of endowing a Nobel Prize for music.
But once back home, for reasons no one will now ever know but that can be guessed at, he changed his mind: Jeanne Taverne became his sole inheritor. Not even the pleas of Ravel's long-standing publisher, René Dommange of the Durand publishing house, that the rights should be used "for the good of French music", could persuade Edouard to change his mind.
Watching these sordid manoeuvrings with interest, meanwhile, was Jean-Jacques Lemoine, legal director of Sacem, the French organisation responsible for collecting and distributing authors', composers' and publishers' rights. Lemoine knew very well how much Ravel was worth: he was Sacem's single biggest earner.
Edouard died in 1960, unleashing a bitter legal battle between the Tavernes and Ravel's relatives in Switzerland, where his father was born. For the duration of the case, which dragged on for 10 years and ended up in France's highest appeal court, Lemoine astutely froze all the money entering Sacem's Ravel account.
So it was that, in 1970, when the last appeal judge ruled in Alexandre Taverne's favour, Jeanne having died six years earlier, the former miner picked up £3.6m. At around that time, Lemoine resigned unexpectedly from Sacem and founded a private legal practice. His first client? One Alexandre Taverne.
Not content with the £3.6m of accumulated composer's rights, Taverne and Lemoine now set about collaring a portion of the publisher's rights, too. This they did by taking Dommange to court and demanding the rewriting of his original contracts with Ravel, which mostly gave the publisher 75% of the rights from recordings rather than the customary one-third.
Dommange, by then in his 80s, had no stomach for the fight and soon sold out. Taverne, who had since remarried, got his hands on all the Ravel contracts and began drawing up new ones with Lemoine; these covered, among other things, the division of rights due on recordings of Ravel's works. Lemoine set up a company, Artist's Rights International Management Agency, or Arima, specifically for the purpose.
Then, in 1972, in a move that has never been fully explained, Alexandre and Georgette Taverne assigned a portion of their composer's and publisher's rights to Arima. Nobody knows how much: both Georgette, now nearly 80 and living near Montreux, and Lemoine, over 90 and living in Monaco, have refused to discuss the matter, though Georgette's daughter told Le Point magazine last year: "Neither my mother or I have received a penny of Ravel's rights for a very long time - everything was made over to Lemoine at the beginning of the 1970s." He is, the family says, the sole recipient of ill-gotten cash worth at least £30m over the past 25 years.
One man disputes this, saying the Tavernes are still benefiting handsomely from Ravel's talent. But he has a sizeable axe to grind: Jean-Manuel de Scarano was the proprietor of Ravel's publishers, Durand, from 1982 until last year, when he sold out to Bertelsmann. The sale price, reportedly £13.5m, no doubt reflected Scarano's achievement, as president of the French music publishers' association, in persuading the government to extend from 50 to 70 years the period for which compositions are protected by copyright - plus an extra 15 years to account for two world wars. The day that bill became law, in 1995, Durand became worth an awful lot more money. Quite how much more is hard to say, of course, without knowing precisely what was in those Taverne-Arima-Durand contracts signed in the 1970s.
Scarano insists the 1972 assignment of copyright simply entailed the Tavernes making over to Arima 50% of Ravel's publishing rights. "Arima," he says, "is the joint publisher, with Durand, of all Ravel's works. It's quite normal."
It is, of course, anything but normal. Why did the Tavernes make over half their publisher's rights to Arima, and in exchange for what? How much was left for Durand? And just what is Arima? Based in Gibraltar and later in the British Virgin Islands, Arima's shareholders are three companies - Dunsmoor Ltd, Greenford Holdings and Anglo Swiss Directors Ltd - about which nobody seems to know anything.
So that's the deal, it seems, with the Bolero millions. The descendants of Maurice Ravel's brother's nurse may still have their hands on some of them, though there is no way to know for sure. On the other hand, it looks almost certain that the former legal eagle at the French music rights association, hiding behind a string of paper companies, has enriched himself by around £1.5m per year for the past 30 years.
Standing on the balcony of the composer's house last week, Claude Moreau gazed mournfully at the green fields beyond Montfort-l'Amaury church and swore charmingly. She hasn't the money to mend the curtains, the carpets or the roof. "It's scandalous," she says, "an insult to Ravel's memory. We haven't a centime and if we don't get some, it will soon be too late."