I am so pumped out about this piece!
Bolero is a relatively modern piece, written around 1928, and originally commissioned as a ballet by Ida Rubinstein. The interesting thing about this piece is that it is the same two themes repeated over and over and over again (about 8 times each, I think), but it is always building and changing orchestration. The piece grows from very quiet, with various solo parts, to absolutely massive with the whole orchestra playing! There is also some brief bitonality! Bitonality is where two or more instruments are playing together- but in DIFFERENT key signatures! At the Piccolo's entrance two measures after Rehearsal 8, the Piccolo is playing in G major, second Flute (doubling Piccolo also) is playing in E Major, and the Horn is playing in C major! The result is a sound you don't usually hear in classical music; a very odd sounding harmony that doesn't sound quite right, but nonetheless just works, despite all your music theory knowledge is telling you.
All through Bolero, the snare drum (and other instruments) are playing a rhythm that never stops at any point in the whole piece. This gives Bolero a rather mechanical, or determined sound. Maurice Ravel envisioned an open air setting with a factory going calmly in the background while writing this, which I think really matches the tone of the music.
The instrumentation is for a large orchestra, including a couple of Saxophones!
Next Up: Finlandia by Sibelius