Pavane pour une infante défunte
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Pavane pour une infante défunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess) is a now well-known piece written for solo piano by the French composer Maurice Ravel in 1899 when he was studying composition at the Conservatoire de Paris under Gabriel Fauré. Ravel also published an orchestrated version of the Pavane in 1910. A typical performance of the piece lasts between six and seven minutes.
The piece evokes the dignified elegance of a reception at the royal Spanish court as a young princess moves gracefully through the steps of the pavane, a slow processional dance that enjoyed great popularity in the courts of Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
This antique miniature is not meant to pay tribute to any particular princess from history, but rather expresses a nostalgic enthusiasm for Spanish customs and sensibilities which Ravel shared with many of his contemporaries (most notably Debussy and Albéniz) that is evident in some of his other works such as the Rhapsodie espagnole and the Boléro. By some accounts, Ravel may have been thinking about Princess Margarita, a daughter of King Philip IV of Spain, but this is far from certain.
Ravel dedicated the Pavane to his patron, the Princesse de Polignac. The Spanish pianist Ricardo Viñes gave the first performance on April 5, 1902. The Pavane was warmly welcomed by the public, but received much more subdued reviews from Ravel's fellow musicians. Indeed, Ravel himself complained that it "lacked daring". Subsequent performances tended to be much too slow and plodding. In one instance, Ravel attended just such a performance, and afterward mentioned to the pianist that it was called "Pavane for a Dead Princess", not "Dead Pavane for a Princess".
In 1997 British opera singer Lesley Garrett recorded a specially arranged version for the Tribute album dedicated to Diana, Princess of Wales who had died in August that year, and guitarist Ottmar Liebert recorded it on his album Leaning Into The Night.
In 2000, electronic musician William Orbit arranged the piece for his album of ambient electronic arrangements of "classical" pieces, Pieces in a Modern Style. It was subsequently released as a single, with a different arrangement. Both Ravel's Pavane and Barber's Adagio For Strings were remixed by Ferry Corsten. As well in 2000, Japanese video game music composer Yoshino Aoki arranged the song for the game Breath of Fire IV.
In 2003, rock/polka band Brave Combo included an arrangement of the piece on their album Box of Ghosts.
In 2008, a Japanese visual kei band arranged Pavane as the intro and the outro of their album Empty Flowers.