Classical Haiku: Maurice Ravel

(Photo: Jonathan Juravich)
(Photo: Jonathan Juravich)

In bright color twirls
every Spanish dancer of
wood, gut, brass and reed.

It is a saying so often bandied about that it has become well-nigh cliché: Maurice Ravel was a great orchestrator.

This statement really is as true as it is hackneyed. Ravel didn’t make the orchestra sing, he made it dance. He didn’t give it legs, he turned it into Cyd Charisse.

Speaking of legs, dancing and Ravel’s great orchestrations, let’s think for a moment about Ravel’s Spanish-inspired work Boléro. Some have likened listening this piece to watching a cricket match. Its tempo never fluctuates, its melodies repeat again and again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLVzvv1atwc

But on that canvas of sameness is a veritable parade of orchestral color as novel as it is wildly evocative. Can two piccolos, normally the screeching harpies of the orchestra, dance together in sunny, Iberian sensuality? Ravel shows us they can. Can a trombone solo have, if you will, sex appeal? Ravel: Mais, oui.

Today’s Classical Haiku goes to Ravel, for making instruments dance and showing us the soul of the orchestra.

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