Saturday, February 04, 2017

Ravel Museum throws out Dutoit and Argerich

The Belvedere Museum Maurice Ravel. Photo: Ravel Foundation website
Le Figaro has carried an extraordinary report alleging that the Belvedere Museum Maurice Ravel - the composer's former home at Montfort-l'Amaury - has been abruptly closed, following "several incidents". These included, last week, having the police throw out two visitors...who happened to be Charles Dutoit and Martha Argerich.

This is a rough translation of the Figaro article:
"Officially, according to the site of the town hall, [the closure was] due to water damage. In fact, according to our information, the door lock was immediately changed.
"A few hours earlier, on 1 February, one of the mayor's deputies orally thanked and dismissed Mrs Claude Moreau, a friend of conductors from all over the world who had been visiting Ravel's house for three decades. Thousands of letters from all over the world signed by the most important personalities in the world of music attest to the excellence of her services to make the Belvedere not a mere museum but a warm home where it is almost expected that Maurice Ravel returns unexpectedly.
"A few days earlier, on Friday, January 27, two world leaders in music, Charles Dutoit, conductor and Ravel's pianist Martha Argerich, came to visit the Belvedere and were surprised to see the municipal police arrive at the museum.
"A deputy, close to the mayor, furious at having seen them take a picture inside the museum (which the sign does not prohibit) had told the police that a burglary was in progress. Instead of unrolling the red carpet like any other municipality would have done to these exceptional musicians, they were expelled manu militari from the premises.
"These last events add to a long list of dysfunctions. Absence of smoke detectors, burglar alarm not connected to the gendarmerie or a private security station, banning shooting of a small film notified to the very prestigious Chicago orchestra (very shocked, its management protested to the American Embassy Of Paris), ban of filming for the teams of France Television when broke the case of Bolero last year.
[the entry of Bolero into the public domain is a whole other story... - JD]
"Contacted this Friday morning by Le Figaro, the mayor of Montfort-l'Amaury, manager of the museum did not wish to answer. The owner of the place is the RMN, Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais. Since last spring, the management of the RMN is worried about the disappearance of movable property and archives of the Ravel museum. Contacted by us this Friday morning, the RNM management specifies that "the custody and management of Ravel's house and its museum have been transferred to the commune of Montfort l'Amaury since 1971 under a 99-year long lease" . Moreover, "this museum, labelled "Musée de France"in 2003, is subject to the scientific and technical control of the Ministry of Culture". What if "Belvedere-gate" was just beginning?"
Terrible to think that this gem of a museum, a place of pilgrimage for so many musicians and music-lovers from all over the world, could be shut down because of what looks like infighting, bureaucracy  and misunderstanding of its cultural significance.

UPDATE: I have corrected a few small but crucial points in the translation above. 'Remercie' in this context means not only 'thanked' but 'dismissed'. So Claude Moreau has effectively been fired. It would appear that the most likely aim of all this is to downgrade the museum. Previously open every day, its hours have already been reduced to weekends plus special arrangements for special visitors by prior appointment during the week. These have to be cleared with the town hall, which according to my source has allegedly refused some requests. Without the attention of Mme Moreau, the museum's future does not look bright.

Another update: For a range of wonderful photos of the place from BBC Radio 3's Sara Mohr-Pietsch, follow this link...