The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

12:06pm on Saturday, 15th January, 2005:

Who Wrote Bolero?


According to page 242 of Raph's book, Ravel did not write Bolero. Debussy wrote Bolero; Ravel merely orchestrated it.

This is news to me.

I was aware that Ravel was an accomplished orchestrator, who did the version most people know of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and many others beside. He even taught orchestration to Vaughan Williams, despite the fact that he was the younger of the two. I'm pretty sure he did orchestrate several Debussy pieces, but Bolero? That's all Ravel, isn't it? I heard a documentary about the piece on the radio about 20 years ago, and I recall being told that Ravel played its theme to a visitor shortly after he'd composed it, saying he thought he might be onto something. He later came to regret having written it, because its success obscured all his other work (just as well, in my opinion — I find the bulk of his original compositions somewhat unmelodic).

I've had a scoot around the web and can find no evidence for Debussy's having composed the original version of Bolero (or Boléro, to be strictly accurate). The genesis of the piece seems to be well documented. Maybe I'll write to Raph and ask for his source.

Referenced by UnRaveled Debussy.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).