Bolero: Ravel’s Sublime Orchestration Exercise

It’s one of the most iconic and sensuous pieces of twentieth century music, delivering the ultimate exploration of orchestral color. Yet, Maurice Ravel’s Boléro was conceived as a kind of composition exercise. The composer explained, It is an experiment in a very special and limited direction, and it should not be suspected of aiming at achieving anything different from, or anything more than, it actually does achieve. Before the first performance, I issued a warning …

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Ravel’s Shéhérazade: L’indifférent

Impressionism celebrates the vague and the intangible…the ephemeral play of color and light and the blurring of reality and dreams. That’s the atmosphere that surrounds L’indifférent (“The Indifferent One”), the final movement of Maurice Ravel’s 1903 song cycle, Shéhérazade. The song’s text is from a collection of 100 poems (One Thousand and One Nights) by Ravel’s friend, Tristan Klingsor (pseudonym of Léon Leclère). It tells a vague, seductive story of unrequited passion and infatuation from afar. The poem’s narrator is attracted …

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Ravel’s Bolero

French impressionist composer Maurice Ravel might have been surprised to know that Bolero, which premiered as a ballet score in 1928, would endure as one of the most popular pieces of twentieth century music.  Ravel was a master of orchestration and he considered this piece to be “an experiment in a very special and limited direction” and “orchestral tissue without music.”  Orchestration refers to the combination of instruments that a composer chooses to …

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