Music borrowed for use in a film does not remain unchanged in the process. Oh, the notes on the page stay the same, but the way the public perceives and hears a piece of music can be affected for decades by one high profile appearance in a film. Skilled filmmaking can fuse with great music in a way that elevates both.
On the other hand, great music can be diminished simply by its association with an atrocious film. I won’t tell you what atrocity of a film used Ravel’s Bolero, in the event that some of my younger students have been fortunate enough not to see it. It is a film that truly gets worse by the year.
I will, though, share with you this amazing outdoor performance of the piece by Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic. Part one is followed by part two. Watch how Barenboim lets the succession of soloists get ever so slightly bluesy. Watch the percussion section that, over the length of the piece, moves slowly from being virtually inaudible to all-out thunderous. Watch an audience that seems stunned into absolute stillness. And finally, watch Barenboim conduct with incredibly minimal movement of his body.
If film X buried Ravel’s Bolero, this 1998 performance is its rebirth. I just regret that it took me ten years to hear it.
P.S. Any comments naming the atrocious film will be deleted.