Pavane pour une infante défunte, Ravel

Ravel's original work for solo piano has been newly transcribed by Len Rhodes for various orchestral instruments, with piano accompaniment. Now available is a transcription for each of the following: Flute, Bb Clarinet, Oboe and French Horn. Written by Maurice Ravel in 1899 whilst he was studying at the Conservatoire de Paris under Gabriel Fauré. Ravel published an orchestral version in 1910 using two flutes, an oboe, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, harp, and strings.

From his student days until the years between the World Wars, Maurice Ravel habitually attended the elegant and stylish salon of Princess Edmond de Polignac (1865-1943). She was an American, whose maiden name was Winnaretta Singer, and she became heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune. She was also a noted patron of the arts. It was this princess who commissioned Ravel to write his six-minute piano piece, Pavane for a Dead Princess. Ravel played the Pavane for the first time in 1899, and overnight it launched his reputation. The piece became extremely popular, and the composer orchestrated it in 1910.
The wording of the title was unfortunate, and he frequently had to explain that the piece is not a cortège for a recently deceased princess. The real sense of it is actually “a princess out of the past.” 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.

Returning to Len Rhodes’ transcriptions - as in the case in the original piano work, on which these transcriptions are based, the resulting transcription is not easy, but is truly well worth the study and practice! Apparently, this was not one of Ravel's favorite compositions, however, it has become one of his best known works. Ravel made it clear that he did not want it to be played too slowly!

All four transcriptions are available at

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