Monday, 3 June 2013


Thanks to the book blog Cornflower I have discovered a video performance of a piece of music that I am currently learning to play on the piano, the well known Bolero by Ravel.  Better known as an orchestral piece here is my copy (solo piano) below.


It is a Spanish publication with Spanish dynamic markings. [1]   The notation is consistent with other pieces by Ravel i.e. placement of notes on the staff is slightly idiosyncratic compared to what I am used to.

This is the video. It features the Labèque sisters, Katya and Mariella, and they are playing Ravel's own arrangement for 4 hands. *

Ravel drew on music of from his Basque background. In the sisters' performance of 4.41 minutes they have added 3 Basque percussionists, the trio Kalakan.  A stunning performance!

I got a real kick out of watching this video because while I have been working on Bolero I have also just been given (well ... loaned) another piece for 4 hands by Ravel called Ma Mère l'Oye or Mother Goose Suite. [2]  I had never heard of this piece and am having fun reading through it. 

But what I really love about it, and what made me laugh when watching this video, is that Ravel does the same trick at the end of the Bolero piece for 2 pianos above as he does in the much shorter and simpler Mother Goose Suite.

What he does is have the Primo player (top line) playing repeated glissandos, i.e. running the back of your fingers up, or down, over the keys in a great flourish and in this case, punctuating each beat with percussive stab.  Wheeee! Great fun!


[1] Bolero, Union Musical Ediciones S.L., Calle Marques de la Ensenada, 4, 28004, Madrid, 1994. ISBN 1-84449-809-3.

[2] Ma Mère l'Oye, edited by Weekley and Arganbright, Neil A Kjos Music Company, San Diego, California, 1985. ISBN 0-8497-5252-3.

* Details about this performance are on their website here.

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