Ravel’s Boléro – which recording should you buy?

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Ravel's Bolero as recorded by Anima Eterna with Jos van Immerseel

Gramophone magazine write: I don’t know about you, but I love losing myself in unfamiliar urban terrain, the plan being to have no plan, walking aimlessly with a purpose, discovering new perspectives on skyscraper vistas, stumbling into a hitherto unseen street or square. Maurice Ravel’s Boléro scratches that same mesmerising itch.

In our October 2010 issue, Pierre Boulez talked of Boléro as Ravel’s “bet” to prove he could do “something outlandish”, reckoning that “Ravel’s genius is finding exactly the right colour for a melodic line”. And therein is its essence. This music is not about marking time by transforming material: Ravel drives Boléro towards motorik self-oblivion. He crashes it into itself as the curtain falls because, let’s be honest, where else could this material go? He gives the steering wheel two game-changing twists and revs up the engine with a killer paradox.

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