Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)

Boléro is an orchestral piece of music by the French composer Maurice Ravel (1875–1937). It premiered in 1928 and is widely regarded as his most famous composition. It was originally written as a ballet piece.

Florin Baluta – YouTube

The music consists largely of a theme repeated over and over again. With each repeat, he simply adds more instruments! In this way, he gradually increases the volume of the music and enriches its melodic texture. It has been suggested that Ravel’s unusual interest in repetition was caused by the onset of progressive aphasia brought on by a stroke.

The tune is highly erotic and has a strong percussion section. With its driving rhythm, repetitive melody, gradual build up and gloriously exciting climax, it has much in common with contemporary popular music. It is a piece which has been loved by people of all ages. Although written by a classical composer, it is adored by people of all musical tastes.

At the Sarajevo Winter Olympics in 1984, Torvill and Dean won gold and became the highest scoring figure skaters of all time (for a single programme) after skating to Ravel’s Boléro. That day, twenty-four million people fell in love with the skaters, the choreography and, of course, Ravel’s Boléro.

I love the rhythm of the Boléro and for years wanted to write a piece of music that used this rhythmic form. But how do you follow Ravel’s majestic piece? The answer is simple – you can’t. However, after a visit to The Alhambra, in Granada, I decided to put together a little bolero of my own, an extract of which can be found below.

It is called “El Castillo”. Just for fun I tried it out with the original Torvill & Dean olympics video -see what you think – and you can also listen to the full track below.

El Castillo – John McGuinness

This piece comes from my album “ Memories of Andalusia”, which is a musical diary of my visit to Southern Spain. I hope you find it interesting.

Click image for John McGuinness – YouTube