In France Ravel composed his most famous and controversial orchestral work Boléro, originally called “Fandango”. Ravel called it “an experiment in a very special and limited direction”. He stated his idea for the piece, “I am going to try to repeat it a number of times on different orchestral levels but without any development.” He conceived of it as an accompaniment to a ballet and not as an orchestral piece as, in his own opinion, “it has no music in it”, and was somewhat taken aback by its popular success. A public dispute began with conductor Arturo Toscanini. The Italian maestro, taking liberties with Ravel’s strict instructions, conducted the piece at a faster tempo and with an “accelerando at the finish”. Ravel insisted “I don’t ask for my music to be interpreted, but only that it should be played.” In the end, the feuding only helped to increase the work’s fame. A Hollywood film titled Bolero (1934), starring Carole Lombard and George Raft, made major use of the theme. Ravel made one of his few recordings of his own music when he conducted his Boléro with the Lamoureux Orchestra in 1930.
Remarkably, Ravel composed both of his piano concertos at the same time. He completed the Concerto for the Left Hand first. The work was commissioned by Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm during World War I. Ravel was inspired by the technical challenges of the project. As Ravel stated, “In a work of this kind, it is essential to give the impression of a texture no thinner than that of a part written for both hands. At the premiere of the work, Ravel—- not proficient enough to perform the work with only his left hand—- played two-handed and Wittgenstein was reportedly underwhelmed by it. But later Wittgenstein stated, “Only much later, after I’d studied the concerto for months, did I become fascinated by it and realized what a great work it was. During 1933, Wittgenstein played the work in concert for the first time to instant acclaim. One critic wrote, “From the opening measures, we are plunged into a world in which Ravel has but rarely introduced us.
The other piano concerto was completed a year later. Its lighter tone follows the models of Mozart, Domenico Scarlatti, and Saint-Saëns, and also makes use of jazz-like theme
Listen and watch these two arts, music and dance, Torvill and Dean skated to Boléro in their gold medal-winning performance at the 1984 Winter Olympics, which is still the only ice dancing performance ever to have received a perfect score from every judge. The piece is so well known in the skating world from this use that it has become a taboo piece of music, since its use usually garners criticism and comparisons to the performance of Torvill and Dean. Their performance is shown below. Bolero is sometimes jokingly referred to as "the world's longest crescendo". Whatever it's length, it is one of my absolute favourite pieces of music. Bob/ http://xrl.us/bgwyzw
MAURICE RAVEL 1875 -1937