There is something deeply hypnotic about listening to Ravel’s Bolero. It is like getting engrossed in a mystery novel and not wanting to stop until you know how it ends. In this performance by the London Symphony Orchestra, we get to see close up the increasing intensity of the musicians at the climax approaches. I wonder how hard it is for the percussionists to keep that steady tempo for 15 minutes, because that is crucial.


  1. flex says

    I love the piece, but Ravel apparently didn’t think there was much music in it:

    .Before its first performance, I issued a warning to the effect that what I had written was a piece lasting seventeen minutes and consisting wholly of “orchestral tissue without music” — of one very long, gradual crescendo.

    From an interview with Ravel in the Daily Telegraph found on Wikipedia.

    I am a big fan of Ravel’s work, and I do enjoy Bolero quite a bit. Of all the romantic composers, I think he is the most technically precise (Bolero is supposed to last 17 minutes, exactly). While some critics claim that his precision eliminates the emotional content from the music, I strongly disagree. His Pavane pour une infante defunte is one of the most moving pieces of music I know.

    I think Maurice Ravel, Erik Satie, and Jean Sibelius are my three favorite romantic composers. Beating out Isaac Albeniz, Claude Debussy, and Frederick Delius narrowly, and far better than Richard Strauss or Arnold Schoenberg. Not that I expect everyone to agree.

  2. mnb0 says

    Flex, neither Ravel nor Satie were romantic composers. Ravel bridged impressionism and expressionism. Comparing Ravel with R.Strauss and Schönberg is like comparing apples and oranges. “Better” is quite meaningless here.

    The Bolero that has impressed me most is the one Shostakovich incorporated in his 7th “Leningrad” Symphony. It’s in the First Movement, starts at 7:08 and describes the March to Leningrad in 1941. Of course the real experience is an a concert hall. Halfway te 80’s I have been so lucky to hear the Leningrad Philharmonic (back then one of the five best orchestras in the world) playing it in Rotterdam. The tension in the climax is just undescribable.

  3. mnb0 says

    More war music, with incoming grenades and in the midsection Mr. Death dancing on the corpses:

  4. machintelligence says

    I first encountered Bolero at a kids concert by the Chicago Symphony at about age 10 in the late 1950’s. That and the Nutcracker were my favorites. I was especially impressed when the snare drummers were called to the front of the stage for a solo bow after the Bolero performance.
    I have a theory about music preference: the music that you grew up listening to in your early teen years will be your imprinted (in the behavioral science sense) preference for the rest of your life. I have only anecdotal evidence, but it seems to make sense.

  5. Scr... Archivist says

    “Young people know that rock has the beat of sexual intercourse. That is why Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ is the one piece of classical music that is commonly known and liked by them.” — Allan Bloom, 1987

  6. Mano Singham says


    Thanks so much for the link. I had no idea about the life of Ravel or the story of the creation of Bolero. It was a fascinating story, though very sad. .

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