Music on Mondays (12-15-14)—Boléro

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

When people find out how large my music collection is (it takes me 6 months to listen to everything at 11 hours of listening per day), I always get asked one of three questions:

What’s your favorite song?
What’s your favorite album?
Who’s your favorite group?

I have never really had an answer for any of those questions because my musical taste is so varied. I do know that The Beatles rank high in all three categories. However, it’s difficult to compare classical music to rock music to country music, and I have a lot of all three genres.

One of my favorite compositions is “Boléro” by Maurice Ravel (1876-1937). Having grown up as a pianist, violinist, and vocalist, I was familiar with “Boléro” from a very early age. Ravel composed it in 1928; it premiered at the Paris Opéra on November 28, 1928.

I’m not familiar with any big name classical music composer in today’s world, so most classical music is a rehash of the same thing by different orchestras with different conductors. That often results in music that is played too fast, too slow, or just right, depending on what one grew up listening to.

In my opinion, “Boléro” doesn’t sound good if it’s played too fast or Quarter notestoo slow. So in my research for this Music on Mondays post, I discovered that Ravel’s original score had the pace set at 76 beats per quarter, but that was crossed out and 66 was written in. Thus, printed scores usually compromise with a stated pace of 72 beats per quarter. “Beats per quarter” means that a quarter note gets the beat, so there would be 72 quarter notes per minute.

Ravel’s own recording of “Boléro” lasts 15’50”. However, in a 1930 interview, he stated that “Boléro” lasts 17 minutes. Thus, I went to YouTube to find a recording that is somewhere between 15’50” and 17 minutes or so. I found a version that is 15’49” by the London Symphony Orchestra, one of my all-time favorite orchestras. Leave it to them to be so precise.

The London Symphony Orchestra has been conducted by Valery Gergiev since January 1, 2007, so this is a fairly recent recording, although I don’t know what year specifically.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

“Boléro” was background music for the 1979 movie “10” starring Dudley Moore, Julie Andrews, Bo Derek, and Brian Dennehy. In the movie, “Boléro” was identified as the ideal piece of background music for making love. Sales of “Boléro” spiked after the movie was released; no surprise there.

Bolero, starring Bo DerekBo Derek starred in a 1984 movie titled “Bolero” but I have not seen it, and Wikipedia wasn’t much help other than telling me that it was a bad, bad movie, winning Worst Picture, Worst Actress, Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay. In 1990 it also was nominated for Worst Movie of the Decade. I did not find out whether or not the “Bolero” movie uses the “Bolero” music in it.

Now I’m going to take you to another favorite version of “Boléro,” this one by the classical/progressive rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Keith Emerson was classically trained as a youth but eventually developed his own style by combining classical, jazz, and rock music. He is widely regarded as one of the top keyboard players of the rock era, and he shows it with “Abaddon’s Bolero.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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16 thoughts on “Music on Mondays (12-15-14)—Boléro

  1. DailyMusings

    I haven’t heard that version from ELP in more than 30 years- they were one of my all time favorite bands when I was in High School. Bolero is an amazing composition- thanks for such wonderful listening this morning! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bruce Thiesen

    Nice reminder and I will put it in queue. I did not know anything about the score for that movie or that Bolero sales spiked. I always think of ‘Beck’s Bolero’ when someone talks of Bolero. He always plays it perfectly. A perfect 10.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I had forgotten about “Beck’s Bolero.” Such a great piece with heavyweight musicians: Beck, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Nicky Hopkins, and Keith Moon. A super super group of musicians.


  3. orples

    I always thought picking a ‘favorite’ anything was very limiting. Life has too many wonders to focus on just one aspect of any subject, be it music, art, etc. I find it amazing so many musicians can join forces to create such wonderful sounds.

    Liked by 1 person

          1. orples

            He looks like Stray, a cat I love/d so many years ago. That one KEPT a piece of my heart. I still have my nasty old ‘Monster’ creature you see featured sometimes in my posts. He has to lay on my lap while I work to be sure I don’t make any mistakes. 🙂 Yeah, right.

            Liked by 1 person


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