Halle Orchestra: Ravel’s Bolero
The Bridgewater Hall, 9 May 2019
This was an impromptu concert, so an unexpected bonus, and all the better for that.
Sir Mark Elder conducted the Halle and the orchestra played these three wonderful works:
- Debussy: Images for Orchestra
- Mussorgsky (in an orchestration by Ravel): Pictures at an Exhibition
- Ravel: Bolero
You could see how the works, although in many respects very different in tone and texture, were interlinked. Debussy’s Images for Orchestra aimed to evoke scenes from memory – it is focussed around various countries – and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition attempted a similar feat: it was about a painter and his pictures. There is a difference, mind, between memories, psychological images as it were, and external vision: pictures, things seen in the world.
Ravel orchestrated the version of Mussorgsky’s work performed here and he composed the final work, Bolero. There is also a further connection: the most elaborate of Debussy’s Images focuses on Spain, the country from which Bolero takes its inspiration.
In Bolero just the one theme is repeated again and again, with more colour and orchestration gradually added with each repetition. But the underlying theme is always present, never obscured. It is thrilling – the way it builds up to a climax, the uncertainty as to how it will all end – but a bit gimmicky, in truth: you are pleased that Ravel wrote it because that means that no one else now has to. Here, though, a visual analogy occurred to me. That Bolero is like one of those Warhol silkscreen prints where the same image (say: Marilyn pouting, Elvis drawing a gun) is repeated over and over, with slight variations in colouring, say.
An evening of vital music and visual culture. A lot to hear, a lot to see.
Details of future Halle concerts can be found here.