Maurice Ravel (1875–1937) was a 20th century French composer. Ravel was one of the most complex of all composers. He was anti-Wagnerian, Impressionist and Neoclassicist all rolled into one. His Basque roots gave him a special affinity with Spanish colours and rhythms. His acute ability to re-engage sensations and memories from childhood resulted in music of playful innocence and unalloyed purity. Although Ravel was by no means a prodigy in the Mendelssohn mould, by the time he was 14 he had won a place at the Paris Conservatoire. Just as Ravel was at the height of his powers and popularity, the outbreak of the First World War caused him such deep distress that a number of important projects never came to fruition. The remainder of his life was plagued by a malfunction of the brain caused by Pick's disease which increasingly affected his speech and motoric impulses. After a final, unsuccessful operation in 1937, Maurice Ravel, France's most celebrated contemporary composer, passed away.