Ravel’s Boléro

Last weekend, Mr Tracks and I heard Maurice Ravel’s Boléro on the radio.

This famous work has stayed with me all week, and I feel compelled to write about it.

Here it is being played at the 2014 BBC Proms by the the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Barenboim.

There is an excellent and comprehensive Wiki entry about this work. Of particular interest is the chart which shows how all the various instruments come in during the piece.

Playing Boléro can be a bit of a nightmare.  Although it lasts only about 15 minutes, the sustained nature of the rhythms and the need to create that important gradual crescendo means that one has to concentrate very hard indeed.  But it is so worth it for the production of the right mood.

I know the piece really well and find it totally beguiling.  It is incredible that a composer should produce such a work – daring and visionary.  The way in which the different elements of the whole orchestra gradually make their contribution is so beautifully balanced.  Like many apparently simple compositions, there is extensive complexity in the weaving together of instruments, rhythm and melody – one hears something new every time it is played.

And of course no post about Boléro would be complete without a mention of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean’s gold-medal winning skating routine.  I vividly remember watching them at the winter olympics way back in 1984.  Everything about it was utterly perfect – the costumes, the match between the choreography with the music, the emotion.  A stunning marriage of dance and composition – so fitting, given that Ravel originally wrote this piece as a work for ballet.  Even now, it brings a lump to the throat – I love it that music and dance can be so moving.

 

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7 thoughts on “Ravel’s Boléro

  1. What is not to like about your post too, Liz! I love Bolero and all Ravel’s music; Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is excellent ( my husband and I saw them play on their first tour of Britain years ago); thank-you for the Torvill and Dean video – fantastic!

    1. So glad you like the post, Clare. I think Ravel might be among my top 10 composers (hard to choose though!). And yes, the E-W Orchestra is fabulous isn’t it. 🙂

  2. Impressive that you left mentioning Torvill and Dean until the end, tht is a very rare thing for Brits and Boléro. Like so many casual listeners I have failed to appreciate the technical complexity of both structure and the effort that goes into creating and playing such a piece, luckily you are here to remind us of both.

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