From Interlochen's archives: A brief performance history of Ravel's Bolero at Interlochen
Read about and listen to some of the earliest performances of Maurice Ravel's iconic Bolero at Interlochen.
Maurice Ravel's Bolero is probably his most famous composition.
It's also one of the last pieces of music that he ever composed, completing it in 1928 before retiring due to illness.
The piece is based on a repeated rhythm played 169 times by the snare drum, expertly spoofed in this 1992 short film:
The remaining instruments of the orchestra alternate two different melodies, taking them through a variety of instrumental sounds and colors.
Bolero was an overnight sensation, and orchestras around the world began performing and recording it.
Ravel's Bolero reached Interlochen's National Music Camp by the summer of 1934, when the National High School Orchestra played it for the very first time.
The following timeline traces the performance and recording history of Ravel's Bolero globally and at Interlochen's National Music Camp.
Ravel's Bolero is performed for the first time. Conductor Walter Straram led the Orchestra of the Paris Opera, and original choreography by Bronislava Nijinska was featured.
Arturo Toscanini conducts the American premiere of Ravel's Bolero with the New York Philharmonic.
In Paris, Arturo Toscanini conducts the New York Philharmonic in a performance of Bolero that Ravel attends.
The composer and conductor began a very public dispute about the piece, in which Ravel allegedly told Toscanini that his tempo was too fast and Toscanini responded that Ravel knew nothing about his own music.
Paramount releases "Bolero," a film starring Carole Lombard, George Raft and Sally Rand.
Ravel's Bolero is featured prominently in the film.
The National High School Orchestra at Interlochen's National Music Camp plays Ravel's Bolero for the first time.
The piece was played during a sight-reading workshop but not included on any concert performances or broadcasts.
The National High School Band at Interlochen's National Music Camp plays a transcription of Ravel's Bolero on the final Sunday concert of that summer's camp session.
This is the first known concert performance of Ravel's Bolero at Interlochen. The concert was not broadcast or recorded.
Frederick Fennell conducts the National High School Band's performance of Ravel's Bolero.
This performance was broadcast on radio, much to the delight of Olga and Bill Boutwell, who sent the following telegram in response to hearing it:
Mr. Boutwell was one of the founders of the National Music Camp's Radio Workshop and served on the summer camp faculty.
The National Music Camp's High School Band, under the baton of Walter Welke, performs Ravel's Bolero.
This concert was broadcast on WKAR and was recorded on transcription disk.
A digitized and remastered excerpt of the performance is available below.
The National High School Orchestra at the National Music Camp performs Ravel's Bolero on a concert for the first time.
This performance was broadcast on WKAR but has not been preserved.
Stefan Wiebe remastered the archival audio featured in this article.
Eileen Ganter provided additional research support.