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Much of Fauré's music is characterized by limpid melodies that float on a sea of harmonic elegance, their sails often billowed by a modality which conjures an antique impressionistic ambiance. Antiquity is a proper aura for a work titled Pavane, for the word applies to a stately 16th-century dance that originated in Italy. Fauré's 19th-century incarnation of this slow, processional type of dance mirrors the prototype in being temperamentally austere and rhythmically precise (the accompaniment is often in regularly paced pizzicatos in the strings). The main theme is at once languid and remote. Its first sentence, taken, in turn, by a flute, then oboe and clarinet, is the chief substance of the piece, although a new idea is introduced midway which provides some little intensity - everything is relative.
Fauré wrote a choral part into the score, but, knowing that the piece is quite complete in the orchestra alone, indicated that the voices could be used or not.
- Orrin Howard