Bolero : autograph manuscript, 1928 July-Oct.

Collection in Focus: Ravel's Bolero

Maurice Ravel’s Bolero started out as a ballet score commissioned by dancer Ida Rubenstein. Her troupe danced the composition's first performance at the Paris Opera in 1928. It was an instant hit. Our Assistant Curator of Music Manuscripts and Printed Music Robinson McClellan has more on this iconic piece of music

Record ID: 
Ravel, Maurice, 1875-1937.
Biographical Data: 
French composer.
Bolero : autograph manuscript, 1928 July-Oct.
Uniform title: 
1928 July-Oct.
Curatorial Comments: 

Ravel's famous Bolero was originally conceived as a ballet score for Ida Rubinstein's dance company and premiered in 1928 with choreography by Bronislava Nijinska and stage designs by Alexandre Benois. The idea went back to 1914, when Ravel and Benois planned a Spanish-themed ballet during their beach vacation, but World War I intervened. In 1928, Rubinstein asked Ravel to orchestrate Iberia, a work by the Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz, for her new company. When Ravel found that the rights to that work had been given to someone else, he composed an original score to a melody of his own invention, rushing to complete this manuscript between July and October 1928. Ravel was inspired by his Basque heritage and affinity for Spanish culture, as well as his lifelong interest in machines, sparked by his father's auto industry career and visits to factories. The rhythmic, repetitive Bolero was an instant hit, reaching rare popularity for classical music. Nijinska remounted her choreography in 1932 with designs by the Russian artist Natalia Goncharova. Though the work was created for dance and shaped by Rubinstein, Benois, and Nijinska, Bolero is known today mainly as a concert work, adapted countless times in popular culture.


At head of title: "à Ida Rubinstein." At the end: "Maurice Ravel Juillet-Octobre 1928."


For orchestra.
Full score.

Associated names: 

Rubinstein, Ida, 1885?-1960, dedicatee.