Ravel’s Boléro

Janet Horvath_019#2 4x5Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath is the author of Playing Less Hurt. Here is an excerpt from her blog on Interlude.

In touch with Ravel’s Boléro

by Janet Horvath

Music lovers and musicians adore the music of Frenchman Maurice Ravel. Whether it’s his moving Pavane for a Dead Princess or his more esoteric String Quartet, his colorful orchestral work La Valse or his dazzling piano concertos (one of which is for the left hand only), he was considered an innovative and inventive composer of the impressionist period along with his co-patriots Debussy and Fauré.

One of his most famous pieces is Boléro — a one-movement orchestral piece. Ravel originally composed the work as a ballet commissioned by the Russian ballerina Ida Rubinstein. Ravel decided to try something new and controversial with this piece —to use one insistent melody with a recurring incessant rhythm.

The première at the Paris Opéra in 1928 was a sensation. Choreographed by Nijinska, a gypsy dances on a table surrounded by men in an inn in Spain — a stunning and seductive theatrical experience. Choreographer Maurice Béjart’s “Bolero” is one of his most well-known and popular ballets. In 1979 he decided to have a man dance the central character surrounded by women. There is a third version consisting of all men. The impact of the work is quite different as the gender changes.

Boléro is frequently performed as an orchestral piece. Boléro’s hypnotic snare drum beat and inexorable climax never fails to bring the house down. How does Ravel achieve this with merely one melody and one continuous rhythm?

Keep reading on Interlude!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.



Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, the trade book division of Hal Leonard Corporations, publishes books on the performing arts under the imprints Hal Leonard Books, Backbeat Books, Amadeus Press, and Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

Posted on July 31, 2013, in Classical & Opera, Music Fans and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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