Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bolero For My Wife

On this classical weekend, I had a special request from someone who I would never turn down, my wife, Sheralyn.  You see Sunday Sept. 23 is her birthday [no I am not saying what number] and one of her birthday requests is that I post her favorite classical piece on her weekend, Bolero by Maurice Ravel.

It is ironic that Bolero, which has a definite Spanish flavor, was written by the great early
20th century French composer and pianist. While considered one of the great French impressionist composers, like Claude Debussy and Jacques Ibert, Ravel also revealed his love for the classical style in his works. He actually considered himself a classicist.  Ravel had many beautiful great piano and chamber music works, but his orchestral piece Bolero is his most famous and one of his most beloved works.

Bolero is a wonderful teaching piece too as it contains a couple of musical ideas well developed in the classical era and still evident today. Bolero is also a very unique orchestral piece, as we will explain.

The two musical terms I am talking about in Bolero are those of dynamics and crescendo. Dynamics, developed much more in the Classical era than in the Baroque, is the volume or intensity of sound [soft, loud, moderate].  The musical term for soft is piano and for loud is forte. A note or passage that is played very soft is called pianissimo and very loud is called fortissimo.   Bolero starts out pianissimo and ends in a fortissimo explosion.  Since this orchestral piece begins very softly,  you have to listen closely to hear the opening beats of the snare drum.

The second teaching musical term that you obtain from Bolero is that of crescendo. Crescendo is a passage that is played with a gradual increase in volume or intensity.  Bolero doesn't just have a passage or phrase that is played in a crescendo style.  It is the whole piece that is the crescendo.  As I said Bolero starts out pianissimo [very softly], then piano[softly], then to a moderate sound, then to forte [loudly] and culminates in a fortissimo climax.

The uniqueness of Bolero is that it may be the only piece in the classical or Romantic era that the crescendo dynamics of the piece covers the whole piece. Most of the time when a phrase or section of a Classical or Romantic piece contains a crescendo of sound, it is followed by a decrescendo [gradually lowering of the volume of sound] coming back to it's original intensity.  But this is not true with Bolero.  It never returns to the softness of the opening.  In this mesmerizing composition, the same theme is repeated over and over for the entire piece.  At first realizing this, you might think "oh, what a boring piece."  To the contrary, when you hear the piece, you will say to yourself, "Oh, what a brilliant, beautiful piece."    The fact that the same motif is continuously repeated throughout the piece, makes more important and brilliant the use of the crescendo dynamics used by Ravel.

While September 23rd is my wonderful wife Sheralyn's birthday, it is also the birthday of the tribbles beloved Duane Patterson [the radio producer of the Hugh Hewitt show].  Thank God, Duane has just had a successful treatment in Germany of his recently diagnosed tonsil cancer. For more on that, you can read this previous post:  Duane Patterson's New Life Journey  The tribbles and Hugh Hewitt and all those friends and relatives of Duane are so thankful to God that the treatment was successful and Duane Patterson is back home in America. Duane, while this post is for my wife, we are both thinking of you.  So, we know this Sunday marks the birthday of at least two great Americans.  Because of this special occasion, this post will run both days of the Tales classical weekend.

As Tales always says on its classical weekends, please turn up the volume and enjoy.

For the love of my life, my wife Sheralyn, this Bolero is for you.

Maurice Ravel: Bolero:


bradley said...

Happy bday to a great woman! Fantastic piece, wow the conductor's enthusiasm is also a crescendo!

susan said...

We too love your beautiful wife. Happy Birthday to our awesome sister-in-law. May your heart sing to this beautiful music every day! Susan and Larry

Big Mike said...

Thanks brother and sister. Sheralyn will love your comments!

Sheralyn said...

Thank you so very much for the bithday wishes from everyone,especially Brad, Susan and Larry. Happy birthday to Duane and a belated happy birthday to Stacey. Each day is a celebration and each day with my husband is a birthday gift within itself. Pop and Reene gave me the gift of their son and I'm forever grateful. I will have been blessed with 56 years of life on tomorrow, 30 of them with my husband, the true love of my life. During those thiry years of being apart of his family I've been blessed to know and see the very best of what a family should be. It is during times of grief and loss that family relations are tested and I feel blessed to have witnessed the true love and devotion that every family should strive for during the losses that they suffered. Every day of my life is like icing on the cake and a big celebration. My wish for everyone is that they would be able to see and be apart of the same type of love. Again, thanks for the happy birthday wishes from everyone. I thank my family for their daily gifts of love, it's the gift that just keep giving.

Francine said...

Sheralyn, hope your birthday tomorrow is as wonderful as you! You expressed my sentiments exactly about being so fortunate to be a part of the Beckman family! By the way, Bolero is one of my favorite pieces, too! Lots of love!

Sheralyn said...

Thanks Francine, Love Sheralym

Joel said...

Sheralyn, what a gracious post and tribute to your wonderful Michael and the family that you are part of! We, too, think he is special, and we think he is sharing his life with a very special lady--you!! Harry and I are so glad that we got to meet you last year! Just the short amount of time was a delight. Have a wonderful, wonderful day!!! Happy birthday!

Sheralyn said...

Thank you so much for sharing my birthday with me. I'm so blessed and with each happy birthday wish my blessings increase. I hope that you and the love of your life are doing well. I hope that we'll see each other again.


Joel said...

Thank you! We will both have to get to Houston again! :D