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RMCO Work Detail

Title Pavanne pour une infante defunte
Composer Ravel, Maurice
Contributor's Name Howard Goldstein
Bio Movement: Lent

This work was commissioned by that indefatigable patron of 20th century music, the Princesse de Polignac, in 1899; originally for piano, Ravel orchestrated it in 1910. Ravel was truly dismayed by the work's sucess ("I no longer see its virtues ... only its faults") as well as the number of bad performances of it he had to endure; after a particularly effortful and hopelessely slow performance by a child, Ravel is supposed to have remarked, "Listen, my child, I wrote a Pavane for a Dead Princess, not a Dead Pavane for a Princess."

Ravel also insisted that there was no extramusical meaning in the title. His interest in music of the past led him to write a pavane, a slow dance from the Renaissance, often played on the lute (suggested in the orchestra version by plucked strings); the label, pour une infante defunte, attracted him merely because of its interesting alliteration.


Work record last updated on 07-19-2004