Maurice Ravel: Pavane pour une infante défunte


Originally written for solo piano, Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte was orchestrated by the composer in 1910, eleven years after the original version was published. Ravel described this piece as “an evocation of a pavane that a little princess might, in former times, have danced at the Spanish court.” Like some of his contemporaries, Ravel was intrigued by Spanish sensibilities and customs, with his Rapsodie espagnole and Boléro also representing this theme. 


The Music

The opening evocation shows off the woodwind section, with soloists emerging left, right, and centre. The horns also play a big part at the start of the piece, with their sound sitting on top of pizzicato strings. There is a sense of warmth throughout this piece, and this is explored from the very first chord. The slow pace of this piece creates an intense atmosphere, making those climaxes even more effective. As more voices are invited in and soloists take their turn, Ravel insists on nuanced dynamics. 

Ravel’s obvious talent for orchestration shines through in this version, with different voices from the orchestra bringing a new dimension to the already sparkling score. Ravel’s rich harmonic palate sits at the forefront of Pavane pour une infante défunte, creating glorious waves of harmonic changes. The conclusion of this sweet piece sees the music slowly die away with grace and dignity. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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