In one of my visits to the city of Bauru, I had the privilege of attending a beautiful concert by the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra (OSESP), listening for the first time to Ravel’s Bolero.
At the request of Russian dancer Ida Rubinstein, Maurice Ravel had in mind to transcribe for orchestra the Iberian music, a six-piece piano composition written by composer Isaac Albeniz. As his idea matured, Ravel was informed that Spanish conductor Enrique Fernández Arbós had already orchestrated the same pieces. Despite receiving permission and the rights to continue his work, the French composer changed his mind and decided to write a new song, inspired by the rhythm of Spanish dance, the bolero.
While spending his vacation in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Ravel sat down on a piano, and playing a melody with one finger, commented with his friend Gustave Samazeuilh, that that theme had an insistent quality, and that he would work on that repetition, gradually inserting the instruments of the orchestra. The composer then began his composition in July, finishing five months later, handing it over to Ida Rubinstein for her to choreograph. The composer and the famous dancer performed for the first time on November 20, 1928, at the Paris Opera, receiving several awards on that occasion.
Ravel’s Bolero is a repetitive music, very rich in exploring the timbres of all the orchestra’s instruments. At its beginning, only one box shows the listener the rhythm of the bolero, following until the end of the music. In this ostinato (rhythm without variation), the instruments enter one by one in a pianissimo (low volume), gaining at each repetition mass and body, creating form and volume, until reaching a fortissimo (high volume) apoteótica, closing the work in a mesmerizing atmosphere.
I was not in Paris when I first enjoyed the work, but walking through the cold streets of a harsh winter in Bauru made me think that Ravel managed that night in 1928 to make everyone there come home singing the unforgettable melody of the work that would mark his life.
Prepare a nice cup of coffee and enjoy the endless sound possibilities explored by Maurice Ravel!