Pavane pour une infante défunte - Maurice Ravel

Pavane pour une infante défunte by Maurice Ravel is one of the composer’s most recognized and beloved solo piano pieces. This inspired work of art conjures a magical air of both past and present through its mesmerizing and delicate melodies. This piece has inspired both fellow composers, as well as audiences worldwide.

History and Release

Ravel wrote this piece in 1899 and premiered it at the Salle Erard in Paris that same year. Pavane was written for piano but, in 1901 it was adapted for orchestra. Throughout the years since then the piece has been re-orchestrated and arranged by many other composers, such as Leopold Stokovsky, Claude Debussy, and Leon Jouret, to name a few.

The piece is based on the popular renaissance pavane style and clearly draws inspiration from that time period. A pavane has both religious and social functions as a slow and stately dance – in this case, it is as if the listener has been transported to a royal court of centuries past. Through its palpitating and undulating harmonies, this short but complex piece provides an exquisite sense of time travel.

Analysis from the Point of View of Music Theory

The piece has a steady and slow tempo of traditional pavane in key of B-flat. It is written for solo piano and has the tonal range of almost one octave, between F3 and A4. Although this piece is not especially demanding when considering the technical skill required of the performer, the same cannot be said regarding its intense demand of emotive ability.

The pieces has a classical form of ternary, or ABA, where two similar parts converse with a middle contrasting part. The two parts open with a simple motif that builds up to a more elaborate one in the middle section, before returning to the initial motif. The piece is primarily based on harmonic progress but towards the end the left hand is used to give the piece additional texture.

Why is it so Popular?

Because of its lush harmonies and soaring passion, this piece has captivated audiences for over a century. It is a work that demonstrates Ravel’s great ability at evoking emotion from the listener due its beautiful, smooth transition between its two contrasting areas. It is also a piece admired and studied by many musicians, because of its memorable motifs, wealth of colorful chords, and its unique performance requires tremendous emotional control.

Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte is a beautiful piece of music that continues to fascinate and mystify its audience like it has for over a hundred years. Its romantic elements and expressive melodies create an atmosphere of time travel that is both nostalgic and modern, both fanciful and grounded.

Publication date: 19. 02. 2023