Maurice Ravel - Bolero - E-flat Clarinet


Ravel's 16-minute orchestral work, based on a Spanish and Cuban dance form, was originally conceived as a Ballet. There are only two themes which make up the entire work, the B-flat clarinet being the second to play the first theme, and the E-flat clarinet being the second to play the second, bluer theme, following the Bassoon's version. Subtle rubato is important to phrasing this solo correctly in performance, when there's a steady beat to measure against, but in an audition most committees are looking to see if you can count correctly, so stay steady and ignore the rubato advice I give below. Any subtle micro-rubato you do should never be so much as to have notes come on the beat that don't be long on the beat. Style is important here, with a mix of Latin dance styles, jazz, and back-alley sleaze. Also, the rhythmic cell of accented-sixteenth/sixteenth/eighth must always come with a dim. and played quite a bit as if the accent were a three-note hairpin dim. instead.

Begin very softly with a pure sound, but exactly on the beat. It should be a sound where the audience will at first not know where it's coming from or what it is. Grow a little in volume as you head to the first sixteenth-notes. The accent in the second bar of your solo can seem confusing, as can several other accents that appear on the second beat in this solo. If you realize that much of your solo is in 4/4 time, they make more sense as they outline the first beat of a 4/4 measure. After the accented G, and especially the long E that follows, dim. down to a fade on the C-sharp. Stretch the next three notes by coming in early on the G and playing a little behind the beat by the time you get to the very-blue high B-flat. The stretching will enhance the jazzy feel of the harmony, and give you a great place from which to build some rhythmic tension as you accelerate and crescendo towards the climax of this phrase on the accented E. Your accellerando should blur the abrupt lines of the delineated rhythmic values of the B-flats, so that the audience doesn't notice the changing rhythmic values when they happen, just that the B-flats are all getting faster. With little dips in volume per beat as you go from eighth-note B-flat down to A and G for two beats, continue your cresc. through to the E sixteenth-note and dim. from there with another fading C-sharp. It is traditional to do a portamento to the final B-flat in imitation of the marked one in the trombone later on, but it's totally ok to leave it out, and in an audition it's better to be discreet. How much you do is up to you and the conductor, but I feel since you're one of the first solos in a long, repetitive piece, it's best not to go too far this early on.

From here in the solo, there's a general pitch and volume decline to fading out on the final note, with a few ups along the way. Start the long-B securely and give a little accent to the third beat of this bar, followed by dim. Crescendo and accelerate like before as the rhythmic values compress down to the throat A, careful not to be flat as you cross the break. Grab a quick-but-dramatic breath before the broadly-accented G. From here on, you should be able to make it without breathing, but you can breathe before the accented low D if you need another one. After you broadly accent the G, dim. and ooze/slide into the sixteenth-notes, crescendoing to the next accented G. Beginning with the accented D, the main-note progression (D-C-Bb-A) is the important long line phrase, with the sixteenth notes as ornaments. Within the large overall dim. you should also play the first sixteenth-notes a little louder with lowering hairpins until the final set, which you can do with a very subtle leading to the D on beat three and a big dim. until you fade out the last note exactly in time.