Pavane for a Dead Princess
Orchestration: 2 flutes, oboe, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, harp, and strings. First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: August 13, 1927, Sir Eugene Goossens conducting.
The immensely popular Pavane pour une infante défunte was written for solo piano in 1899, with the composer’s own delicately-scored orchestration dating from 1910. The first performance of the latter was in 1911, under the baton of composer- conductor Alfredo Casella.
Much has been made of the work’s curious title -- by those who have never consulted Ravel’s own words on the subject: "Do not attach any importance to the title. I chose it only for its euphonious qualities [making the un-euphonious English translation, "Pavane for a Dead Princess," particularly inapt]. Do not dramatize it. It is not a funeral lament for a dead child, but rather an evocation of the pavane [a stately, 16th-century Spanish court dance] which could have been danced by such a little princess as painted by Velázquez."
Herbert Glass, a columnist and critic for the Los Angeles Times from 1971 through 1996, is also a frequent contributor to Gramophone and The Strad. He is English-language annotator for the Salzburg Festival.