Friday Faure: Pavane, Op. 50

>> Friday, June 12, 2009

Without a doubt, my favorite French composer has to be Gabriel Fauré. As I have sung many of his numerous vocal pieces, as well as his Requiem, I am always impressed by his sensitive and tender melodic lines and voice leading. I'm featuring today, one of his instrumental works, which I believe to be one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed. I featured it several months ago in my "World's most beautiful music" series, but I didn't receive any comments on it, so I figured that it didn't get a fair listen, so I'm featuring it again today.

The Pavane in F-sharp minor, op. 50, is a composition for orchestra and optional chorus by the French composer Gabriel Fauré and dates from 1887. Obtaining its rhythm from the slow processional Spanish court dance of the same name, the Pavane ebbs and flows from a series of harmonic and melodic climaxes, conjuring a cool, somewhat haunting, Belle Époque elegance. The piece is scored for only modest orchestral forces consisting of strings and one pair each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns. A typical performance lasts around seven minutes.

When Fauré began work on the Pavane, he envisaged a purely orchestral work to be played at a series of light summer concerts conducted by Jules Danbe. After Fauré opted to dedicate the work to his patron, Elisabeth, comtesse Greffulhe, he felt compelled to stage a grander affair and thus he added an invisible chorus to accompany the orchestra (with additional allowance for dancers). The choral lyrics were based on some inconsequential verses, à la Verlaine, on the romantic helplessness of man, which had been contributed by the Countess' cousin, Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac.

The orchestral version was first performed at a Concert Lamoureux under the baton of Charles Lamoureux on November 25, 1888. Three days later, the choral version was premiered at a concert of the Société Nationale de Musique. In 1891, the Countess finally helped Fauré produce the version with both dancers and chorus, in a "choreographic spectacle" designed to grace one of her garden parties in the Bois de Boulogne.

From the outset, the Pavane has enjoyed immense popularity, whether with or without chorus. It entered the standard repertoire of the Ballets Russes in 1917, where it was alternatively billed as Las Mininas or Les Jardins d'Aranjuez. Fauré's example was imitated by his pupils, who went on to write pavanes of their own: Ravel's Pavane pour une infante défunte and Debussy's Passepied from his Suite bergamasque.

Information source: Wikipedia


Derrick June 12, 2009 at 9:04 AM  

Hi Lynette,

Hope you've managed to grab a bite to eat by now! Very soothing music. The Requiem is hard to beat.

Lynette June 12, 2009 at 11:48 AM  

Thanks, Derrick! I was feeling rather peckish! LOL!

Yes, Faure's Requiem is one of the most beautiful works out there, and this Pavane, in my humble opinion, ranks up there with it. Like I said, I really like Faure.

marc aurel June 13, 2009 at 4:39 PM  

I am ashamed to admit that, as a barbarian, I am very familiar with this music, without usually having the faintest idea of who's it is. So thank you!

Merisi June 16, 2009 at 9:32 AM  

Gabriel Fauré's "Pavane" is one of my favorite works of classical music! My two oldest daughters were part of a children's choir that performed his requiem at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington DC a few years back. I shall never forget listening to their voices during "Libera me" and "In Paradisum".

Lynette June 16, 2009 at 9:54 AM  

I performed the Faure Requiem a couple of years ago with the Stillwater Chamber Singers, and secretly I wished that I was a baritone so that I could sing the solo in the Libera Me. What a gorgeous work! And then there is his Pavane! I found this video presentation of it to be stunning, using statues from Staglieno Cemetary in Genoa.


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