Bolero rhythm pattern


The Bolero, arguably Ravel’s most famous composition, was written for a large orchestra consisting of, piccolo, 2 flutes , 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 saxophones, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, piccolo trumpet, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, bass tuba, timpani, 2 snare drums, a bass drum, one piece/pair of orchestral cymbals, tamtam, celesta, harp, strings.

On top of an unchanging ostinato rhythm played on snare drums, you can hear two melodies, each of 18 bars’ duration and played twice: the first is diatonic, while the second, written in the Phrygian mode, introduces more jazz-influenced elements (think syncopation and flattened notes).

Originally composed as a ballet for dancer Ida Rubinstein, it premiered at the Paris Opéra on November 22, 1928. Its original scenario imagined a tavern in Spain, where people dance beneath a brass lamp hanging from the ceiling; in response to the cheers, the female dancer leaps onto the long table and her steps become more and more frenzied.