Pavane (Fauré)

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Fauré in 1887

The Pavane in F-sharp minor, Op. 50, is a pavane by the French composer Gabriel Fauré written in 1887. It was originally a piano piece, but is better known in Fauré's version for orchestra and optional chorus. 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 haunting Belle Époque elegance. The piece is scored for only modest orchestral forces consisting of string instruments and one pair each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns. A typical performance lasts about six minutes.


The original version of the Pavane was written for piano and choral in the late 1880s.[1] The composer described it as "elegant, but not otherwise important."[2] Fauré intended it to be played more briskly than it has generally come to be performed in its more familiar orchestral guise. The conductor Sir Adrian Boult heard Fauré play the piano version several times and noted that he took it at a tempo no slower than crotchet=100.[3] Boult commented that the composer's sprightly tempo emphasised that the Pavane was not a piece of German romanticism,[3] and that the text later added was "clearly a piece of light-hearted chaffing between the dancers".[4]

Fauré composed the orchestral version at Le Vésinet in the summer of 1887.[5] He envisaged a purely orchestral composition, using modest forces, to be played at a series of light summer concerts conducted by Jules Danbé.[5] After Fauré opted to dedicate the work to his patron, Elisabeth, comtesse Greffulhe,[6] he felt compelled to stage a grander affair and at her recommendation 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's cousin, Robert de Montesquiou.[7]

The orchestral version was first performed at a Concert Lamoureux under the baton of Charles Lamoureux on November 25, 1888.[5] 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.[8]

From the outset, the Pavane has enjoyed immense popularity, whether with or without chorus.[9] With choreography by Léonide Massine a ballet version entered the repertoire of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1917, where it was alternatively billed as Las Mininas or Les Jardins d'Aranjuez. For Massine, the music had "haunting echoes of Spain's Golden Age" parallelling the formality and underlying sadness he found in the paintings of Velázquez.[2] Some critics found the ballet pallid, but Diaghilev retained a fondness for the piece, and kept it in the company's repertoire until the end of his life.[2]

Fauré's example was imitated by his juniors, who went on to write pavanes of their own: Debussy's Passepied in his Suite bergamasque and Ravel's Pavane pour une infante défunte,[10] and "Pavane de la belle au bois dormant" in Ma mère l'oye.[11]


C'est Lindor, c'est Tircis et c'est tous nos vainqueurs!
C'est Myrtille, c'est Lydé! Les reines de nos coeurs!
Comme ils sont provocants! Comme ils sont fiers toujours!
Comme on ose régner sur nos sorts et nos jours!

Faites attention! Observez la mesure!

Ô la mortelle injure! La cadence est moins lente!
Et la chute plus sûre! Nous rabattrons bien leur caquets!
Nous serons bientôt leurs laquais!
Qu'ils sont laids! Chers minois!
Qu'ils sont fols! (Airs coquets!)

Et c'est toujours de même, et c'est ainsi toujours!
On s'adore! On se hait! On maudit ses amours!
Adieu Myrtille, Eglé, Chloé, démons moqueurs!
Adieu donc et bons jours aux tyrans de nos coeurs!
Et bons jours!

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Pavane features in Il Divo, a 2008 film about Giulio Andreotti.
  • Lexi skates to Pavane at her first competition in the 2010 version of the film Ice Castles.
  • The BBC used Pavane as the theme music for their coverage of the 1998 FIFA World Cup, and for one week in July 1998 the Wimbledon Choral Society's recording of the Pavane reached No. 20 in the UK Singles Chart.
  • The Swedish film series Johan Falk uses "Pavane" on multiple occasions during its first and second season.

Other recordings appear in the following albums:

Other adaptations include:

  • "Hystereo" by Armin Van Buuren
  • "Isabel" (song) by Il Divo
  • "Memories" by Young Maestro Ft. The Firm & Ozmosis
  • "Whisper of Angels" by Amici Forever
  • "Natural" by S Club 7
  • "Paparazzi" by Xzibit. An instrumental version appeared over the final montage in the Sopranos, season 1 episode 6 ("Pax Soprana").
  • "Human Sacrifice" by Sweetbox
  • "Little Me" by Little Mix
  • "Changes (Peremeni)"/"Больно (Bol'no)" by Dima Bilan
  • "Fauré's Pavane" by Tinnitus Project
  • "Pavanorama" by Deviations Project from the album "Ivory Bow"
  • The adventure computer game Return to Zork
  • The 2009 film ""Mr. Nobody" (film)"
  • "Dream a Dream (Elysium)" (song) by Charlotte Church and Billy Gilman in 2000 (later also covered by Liriel Domiciano and Priscila Caprit in 2007)
  • The most contemporary and successful adaptation was "Tous les maux d'amour" by the French singer Norma Ray, in the 1990s.
  • In 2012 West End soprano Meredith Braun recorded English and Italian vocal adaptations of Fauré's "Pavane", "Close Your Eyes" and "Se Dormi" for her debut album "Someone Else's Story".
  • The "Pavane" is featured in the sixth season of the HBO series Sex And The City. The episode, called "One", aired September 14, 2003.
  • The melody is also played in a scene of Production I.G's "Blood-C" anime.
  • In 1994 it was sung and recorded by Annie Haslam on the CD "Blessing in Disguise", the song being called "The Sweetest Kiss", words by Betty Newsinger.
  • The Pavane is arranged by Bob Fowler and sung by Kathy Fowler in the original soundtrack of the film "A Perfect Ending".
  • Pavane can be heard playing in an episode of Mr.Selfridge


  1. ^ Howat, p. 155
  2. ^ a b c Norton, p. 25
  3. ^ a b Howat, p. 272
  4. ^ Boult, Adrian C. "Faure's Pavane", The Musical Times, Vol. 117, No. 1600 (June 1976), p. 490 (subscription required)
  5. ^ a b c Orledge, Robert (1993). Notes to EMI CD CDM 7-64715-2
  6. ^ Nectoux. p. 172
  7. ^ Nectoux, p. 34
  8. ^ Nectoux, p. 510
  9. ^ Nectoux, p. 338
  10. ^ Nectoux, p. 109
  11. ^ Brown, Alan. [1] Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, accessed 15 November 2011 (subscription required)


  • Howat, Roy (2009). The Art of French Piano Music. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-14547-0. 
  • Nectoux, Jean-Michel; Roger Nichols (trans) (1991). Gabriel Fauré – A Musical Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23524-3. 
  • Norton, Leslie (2004). Léonide Massine and the 20th Century Ballet. Jefferson NC.: McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-1752-8. 

External links[edit]