The shimmering beauty of Paris is reflected in Ravel's strongly structured masterpiece of 1903.
Belle Epoque Paris. It’s 1903, the Eiffel tower has been up for 14 years, Sacré Coeur is still being built at the top of Montmartre, and the new metro, launched in 1900, is going without a hitch. Paris is on a high, still riding on the success of the Exposition Universelle in 1889.
In the 9th district, Montmartre, the nightclubs are in full swing, dominated by the Moulin Rouge, the Folies Bergère, and the Chat Noir (the black cat which has had to find a new poster painter since Toulouse Lautrec died, just a couple of years before). The artists' models are still to be seen advertising for work on the Place Pigalle, Emile Zola is still to be seen taking his afternoon constitutional, Erik Satie is the king of the café scene, and Maurice Ravel, age 28, is just beginning his string quartet.