FRIDAY, October 2, 2020 – 4:12 AM
Ravel: Bolero in C major, age 53
Popular for 91 years…
There has never been a time when the masses have not loved this piece. It is not only Ravel’s most famous composition but also the one that is instantly recognized. I doubt there are many people on planet earth who have not heard this.
But who is the best?
I picked this video because of the camera work. I wanted something that would show the instruments being played. But I fell in love with the performance. I could listen to the trombone solo 50 times and never get bored.
- 0:20 snare drum and double bass (the big string instrument) plus viola: The poor snare drum player and whoever is playing the bass line have to play those same notes for more than 13 minutes.
- 0:33 flute, gold: Does gold really make the instrument sound better? I don’t know. It could be hype, or it could be true.
- 1:28 clarinet: Nothing to say. This guy is just good. I wonder what Mozart would have thought of this?
- 2:22 bassoon: Always one of the strangest looking instruments. It’s for the brooms in “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, and it’s “Grandfather” in “Peter and the Wolf”.
- 3:17 sopranino clarinet: It’s a smaller and higher clarinet in Eb. It’s pitched a 4th higher than standard Bb clarinet. I had never heard the name before. But odd pitched clarinets are popular in places like Turkey, or so I read.
- 4:12: English horn, also known as cor anglais: It’s a lower pitched oboe, really.
- 5:07 flute again with muted trumpet: color me stupid because I never noticed this combo before. The trumpet with the mute, together with the flute, is a unique sound. I really like it.
- 6:02 tenor saxophone: It’s a late arrival in the orchestral instruments. You won’t find saxes of any kind in Beethoven. Even today people think of it more as a pop or jazz instrument.
- 6:56 soprano sax: It’s an octave higher than tenor sax.
- 7:50 piccolo and celeste: What an usual combo. It sounds so cool.
- 8:45 winds, oboes, English horn, clarinets: Now Ravel starts adding an interval, things like 3rds and 4ths below the melody.”
- 9:38 trombone: This is a killer trombone part, and you have to be really good to play it because it goes up to high Db, a very high note for an orchestral trombone player. This guy is superb. He uses slide vibrato. It’s the best job I’ve heard of this solo.
- 10:31 more winds, intervals, chords: Now he’s using triads and chords, very rich sound.
- 13:08 continuing with the larger group, and timpani: I have to go back sometime and find out when the timpani was added. It may be sooner. This is just unison and octaves.
- 14: 00 bigger, and with chords: Adding more weight, even fuller and richer.
- 14:51 huge, probably just one interval: This time unisons and octaves again, but it’s huge.
- 15:42 even bigger: And continuing with more and more players.
- 16:21 there is a bit of a variation in the theme: Suddenly for the first time he adds a bit to the theme.
- 16:27morphs to E major: This is a surprise because he never did it before.
- 16:50 Back to C major and it ends: Nothing to say, except you have trombone glisses, and it’s a racous musical celebration.
- piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
- 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba
- timpani, snare drum
- harp, celesta
It went viral…
Read about it HERE: This composition by Maurice Ravel remains one of the most famous pieces of music ever nwritten and was hugely popular the minute people heard it.
There is an A theme and a B theme. He alternates them, using these two ideas over and over again, always with different instrumentation. His idea was to create something totally new, and it was just a huge experiment.
I hated this, and now I very much like it…
I used to think this was music written for people who don’t know anything and who need to hear the same tune repeated over and over again. I went years without listening to it, on purpose. But when I started studying the music more closely I completely change my mind. I now think it’s brilliant.
Ravel wanted it slow and sensuous. Toscanini wanted it much faster. He won, Ravel lost. But today conductors have reversed that, going to the slower tempo Ravel preferred. Why does the slower tempo work today? Because the top soloists are better, and they can pull of something more liquid, expressive and polished.