Composed: 1899; 1910
Length: c. 10 minutes
Orchestration: 2 flutes, oboe, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, harp, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: August 13, 1927, 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, after many years as a columnist-critic for the Los Angeles Times, has for the past decade been the English-language annotator and editor for the Salzburg Festival.