Lorin’s Bolero

6 12 2006

The Bolero by Ravel is my favourite piece of classical music. You know it, don’t you? Written for an entire orchestra, its simple melody is first played by one instrument (is it the clarinet or the oboe?), then each time the melody starts again, another instrument kicks in. The whole piece then builds up to a slow seemingly everlasting crescendo. Ravel himself said about it that, ‘I have written only one masterpiece: that is the Bolero. Unfortunately it contains no music.’ Amazing. He described it as ‘not a composition, but an exercise in orchestration… a piece lasting 17 minutes and consisting wholly of orchestral tissue without music – of one long, very gradual crescendo.’

I bought some years ago the version directed by Lorin Maazel, with the Wiener Philharmoniker. Maazel’s genius here was, next to following almost à la lettre the composition, to insert, in the very last movement & minutes, a speaking variation: the whole tempo slows down all of a sudden as if it were about to stop, then pulls itself up from the almost stillness, and gains speed again to reach its previous tempo. The effect is marvellous: you have in mind the image of a big machinery, a huge wheel composed of all its elements – the instruments – that has become so heavy, it is finding it difficult to keep moving on, or like a wheel rolling and trying to pull all the weight to the top, with difficulty, but finally manages to do so, and once the weight is at the top, gravity does the rest, and the spinning starts again. The natural laws of physics. A simple idea, yet one had to think of it and implement it in the Bolero.

I have listened to many other versions of the Bolero, and this one is undoubtely the best – to my taste anyway. So, to make it easier for those of you interested, here it is on Amazon.

Happy listening! 😉

Next to this, I’m feeling strange these days, as if close to some breakdown. I wonder what it is I need in order to pull my spirit up again, like the great big wheel in the Bolero; but first and most, I need to quit smoking; starting tomorrow. But since tomorrow never comes, and today is all that we have, let’s start today (oooh, tough). But then again, it’s true: tomorrow never comes. Since the future is merely an illusion as the present minute moves into the next and creates the past all at once, isn’t the present moment all that there is? The past becomes an echo of the present; the present an echo of the future; always hand in hand. Eternity, where time doesn’t exist, is the womb where all these moments exist. As Zero 7 put it, in ‘Morning Song’, taken from their album ‘When It Falls’:

If today is all we see
Then tomorrow seems to me
Is just an illusion we believe

Ciao for now.




2 responses

6 12 2006

I’m not a classic-music-fan, but the Bolero is beautifull! Never heard the version you write about… but who knows…
Quit smoking….mmmm… we all think it is difficult. I stopped in May, from one day to the other,it was not difficult and I don’t even think about it anymore. Funny!
If you really want to stop, you can do it! good luck and take care…..

10 12 2006
Silvia F.

Hi 🙂

Definitively one of my favourite piece of classical music too, just sublime! I used to play it with my flute just for fun, I believe this work of art requires a “luxurious” orchestra… The neverending movie “les uns et les autres” very end causes gooseflesh: the combination of melodious voices, dance and music is overwhelming.
As far as quitting smoking is concerned, tomorrow should be today or even… now! I’ve quitted exactly 1 year ago, out of the blue, no planning, no nothing. Although I wasn’t smoking much, it took a hell out of me but it really worth while. When there is a will, there is a way! 😉
Anyway, very nice blog you’ve got here!


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