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Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was a French composer and arranger.

Since he is better known for a single work, this lesson will help you discover some other great pieces he wrote and more about his life.

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Bolero

Even you didn’t see the movie 10, you have probably heard the famous piece near the end of this film. It is music with an incessant, driving rhythm that accompanies a long, spun-out melody repeated by a wide variety of instruments.

Nearly fifteen minutes long, it starts out quietly and gradually builds in volume to a huge orchestral climax. That music is Bolero by Maurice Ravel, and it has also been featured in other movies, television shows and even video games.

Maurice Ravel
Image of Maurice Ravel

Sometimes a composer is best remembered for a single popular work, and that is the case with Ravel and Bolero. Which is kind of ironic, since Ravel is quoted several times to have considered it a trivial piece. Still, the composition has an interesting origin story.

In 1928, Ravel made a four-month concert tour in North America and used the opportunity to visit jazz clubs in New Orleans and Harlem. He met George Gershwin at a party, and Gershwin mentioned he would like to study with Ravel during a future trip to Paris he was considering. According to various translations and accounts, the Frenchman gently declined. There is an unconfirmed second part of the story which has Ravel asking Gershwin how much money he made. Upon hearing Gershwin’s reply, Ravel suggested that maybe he should study with Gershwin. Ravel composed Bolero on his return home, and the piece was a financial success.

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