(Music) Pavane for a Dead Princess

A pavane is a slow, stately dance, two beats to the measure, popular in the 16th and 17th centuries and performed in elaborate clothing, or a piece of music written for the same.

“The original piano version of the Pavane pour une infante défunte was composed in 1899 and dedicated to the Princesse Edmond de Polignac (otherwise known as Winnaretta Singer), a French-American musical patron who was also the daughter of the nineteenth-century sewing-machine magnate, Isaac Singer. The orchestral arrangement wasn’t premiered for another eleven years.

The strikingly morose title of the work belies its actual inspiration: far from being about death, Ravel stated that ‘When I put together the words that make up this title, my only thought was the pleasure of alliteration’. While it’s literally true that the French should be translated as ‘Pavane for a dead Princess’, Ravel was at pains to point out that it ‘Is not a funeral lament for a dead child, but rather an evocation of the pavane that might have been danced by such a little princess as painted by Velázquez’. His comments went largely unheard, though; even today, many believe the piece to have a quite different meaning from the one the composer intended.” (from ClassicalFM.com)

Which do you hear?

I hear some lovely music for the changing of the seasons.

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cover image: Thomas Cooper Gotch, “The Child Enthroned” (1894)