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Composed: 1899

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

About this Piece

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