Even Maurice Ravel couldn't quite understand the enormous popularity of this piece. To his colleague Arthur Honegger, he said, "I created just one masterpiece, and it's 'Bolero'; unfortunately, it contains no music."
Beethoven ile Bulusma 5
Turkish National Youth Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Cem Mansur
MP3 recorded by Deutsche Welle (DW) in the Beethoven Hall on September 19, 2012
In 1927, the legendary dancer Ida Rubinstein requested a musical work from Ravel in the form of a Spanish ballet. Completed the following year, "Bolero" had its premiere at the Palais Garnier in Paris.
In the choreography, Ida Rubinstein played a flamenco dancer performing on a table in a tavern, surrounded by 20 male dancers. Her erotic moves shocked the audience. At the premiere, one female audience member shouted, "Ravel must be crazy." The composer's dry remark: "She understood it."
In the cleverly orchestrated escalation of a simple melody, Ravel wrote probably the longest crescendo in music history. The structure of the work is actually "simplistic," Ravel stressed.
"It's a dance of very controlled movement, continuous uniformity in respect to the melody, harmonies as well as rhythms; the latter is provided by unrelenting drums. The only element in flux is the orchestral crescendo," he said.