≈ History ≈
~ Based on materials derived from
Grove Dictionary, Rovi & BBC ~
The Pavane was originally written by Ravel with a dedication to his patron, the Princesse de Polignac, in 1899 when he was studying at the Conservatoire de Paris under Fauré. It was published in 1900 but attracted little attention until the Spanish pianist Ricardo Viñes (1) performed the piece on April 5, 1902. The work soon became well-known and popular enough for Ravel to produce an orchestral arrangement in 1910 which premiered on February 27, 1911, in Manchester. A common quote circulates in which the composer coyly remarks that the rather macabre title - "To a deceased princess" - "has nothing to do with the composition. I simply liked the sound of those words", along with his consent that the Pavane should be interpreted as "an evocation of a dance that a little princess might, in former times, have danced at the Spanish court".
(1): Viñes also premiered "Menuet antique", "Jeux d'eau",
"Miroirs" and "Gaspard de la nuit", all by Ravel.
≈ Music ≈
Ravel later developed a rather poor opinion of the piece, even writing in 1912: "I perceive its faults very clearly -- the glaring influence of Chabrier and the rather poor form". The latter comment is directed at the fairly conservative ABACA rondo form of the Pavane which is followed to a hilt and without any structural variations. However, apart from the somewhat muddled, in my opinion, final measures of the 1899 version, the Pavane does not deserve any criticism in either of its forms. In the present case, I attempted a synthesis of the 1899 and 1910 versions my task happily being aided by the close tempos followed by the highlighted renditions. Thus, there are several transitions between the original and the arrangement, hopefully, done as seamlessly as possible. I must also admit to having a preference for the orchestral version which, is very much the key player here, for I find it to be of richer dimensions by virtue of its evocative orchestration, though I do include several markings which appear solely in the 1899 version. In both cases, the Pavane's principal melody (A section), an enchanting and, at the same time, faintly tearful lament consisting of two extended ornamental phrases which, in the 1910 version, are initially relegated to two horns supported by a steady eight note pulse in the lower strings with a brief echo of the second part of the theme in the first violins (0:50), immediately imprints itself in one's mind (0:12-1:16). A sustained melancholy is present throughout which only adds to the striking beauty of the work. The contrasting B section, a graceful sequence of mirroring turns over a pizzicato accompaniment, in the arrangement is enriched by the complementary use of contrasting renditions of the same passage first by the winds (oboes/bassoons over clarinets (1:20)) and then by the strings (first violins/cellos over second violins/altos (absent here)), the final measures intoned by the entire orchestra (2:30). The repeat of the A section is naturally embellished, in the 1910 arrangement -- completely transformed by the relegation of the theme to the flutes/oboes (the second phrase -- flutes/clarinets (3:21)), the accompaniment -- to the lower strings (simplified for the second part), while the bassoons/first violins initially engage in a caressing bass line (2:41). The C section (3:55) features a stunning suspension of time, as it where, elegantly juxtaposing exposed lines for flutes/harp (4:42), horn (4:50), clarinets (5:02) over a wave-like motion in the strings, ultimately taken up by the entire orchestra (5:10). The final repeat of the A section, in a slightly predictable gesture, initially relegates the theme to the flutes (strikingly replaced by the clarinets for the second part of the first phrase)/violins, the eight note motive -- to the harps (5:38), though for the second section a wonderful combination of horns/first violins/altos and flutes/clarinets, respectively, is adopted (absent here). As previously stated, the original finish, incorporating a gradual piano crescendo, is not wholly satisfactory after the lyrical beauty that precedes it. Thankfully, the orchestral revision allows for a softer, though more conventional closing (6:50). Even though the name of the piece does seem to have been more a play on words, the ethereal character of the Pavane is a perfect reflection of its suggested title.
≈ Score ≈
The sets of sheet music for both the original
and the orchestrated versions of the Pavane
can be found on IMSLP ~http://imslp.org/wiki/Pavan...
≈ Recording ≈
The 2001 Hyperion recording of the original version and the 1985 Deutsche Grammophon are highlighted with wonderfully pensive renditions of the Pavane by Angela Hewitt and Berliner Philharmoniker under Herbert von Karajan.
Hope you'll enjoy =).