On November 19, Skitch Henderson and the New York Pops will perform Maurice Ravel's Boléro, almost 75 years to the day that this masterpiece was given its U.S. premiere at Carnegie Hall by Arturo Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic.
The first performance, on November 14, 1929, caused a sensation. "Toscanini Causes Furor with 'Bolero'" was the review headline in the next day's New York Times.
The Times critic, Olin Downes, praised the work and performance: "When the orchestra stopped at last, the excitement, which had gathered in the listeners as well as the music, vented itself... [S]houts and cheers from the audience delayed the performance by the prolonged applause." What Downes neglected to mention was that not all those shouting in the Hall were happy with the work. Intermingled with the applause were outbursts of hissing, which were in turn drowned out by further applause.
It might be hard to imagine the mixed response, given Boléro's popularity today. In fact, with 95 performances since 1929, Boléro is Ravel's fourth most frequently performed work at Carnegie Hall, after Daphnis et Chlo_, Suite No. 2 (176 performances); La Valse (128 performances); and Tzigane, with piano (126 performances).
Archivist and Museum Director, Carnegie Hall
Visit the Rose Museum to find out more about Carnegie Hall's rich and diverse history.