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 chorus in the late 1880s. The composer described it as "elegant, but not otherwise important." 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 100 quarter notes per minute. Boult commented that the composer's sprightly tempo emphasised that the Pavane was not a piece of German romanticism, and that the text later added was "clearly a piece of light-hearted chaffing between the dancers".
Fauré composed the orchestral version at Le Vésinet in the summer of 1887. He envisaged a purely orchestral composition, using modest forces, to be played at a series of light summer concerts conducted by Jules Danbé. After Fauré opted to dedicate the work to his patron, Elisabeth, comtesse Greffulhe, 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.
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. 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. 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.
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, and "Pavane de la belle au bois dormant" in Ma mère l'oye.
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!
It is Lindor, it is Tircis, and it is all our victors!
It is Myrtille, it is Lyde! The queens of our hearts.
As they are defying! As they are always proud!
As we dare rule our fates and our days!
Pay attention! Observe the measure!
Oh mortal insult! The cadence is less slow!
And the fall more certain! We'll make them sing a different tune!
We will soon be their running dogs!
They are ugly! Dear little face!
They are madmen! (Quaint airs and tunes!)
And it is always the same, and so forever!
We love! We hate ! We curse our loves!
Farewell Myrtille, Egle, Chloe, mocking demons!
Farewell and good day to the tyrants of our hearts!
And a good day!
Use in other media
Swedish TV films about the fictional police detective Johan Falk, produced between 1999 and 2015, featured pop music arrangement versions of Pavane.
- Howat, p. 155
- Norton, p. 25
- Howat, p. 272
- Boult, Adrian C. "Faure's Pavane", The Musical Times, Vol. 117, No. 1600 (June 1976), p. 490 (subscription required)
- Orledge, Robert (1993). Notes to EMI CD CDM 7-64715-2
- Nectoux. p. 172
- Nectoux, p. 34
- Nectoux, p. 510
- Nectoux, p. 338
- Nectoux, p. 109
- Brown, Alan.  Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, accessed 15 November 2011 (subscription required)
- The text and its translation is given in the 2012 programme note of Asheville Symphony; the sharing of the words between the various vocal registers can be found on the Canzone site
- BBC Sport http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/sporteditors/2006/05/post.html
- Howat, Roy (2009). The Art of French Piano Music. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-14547-0.
- Nectoux, Jean-Michel (1991). Gabriel Fauré – A Musical Life. Roger Nichols (trans.). 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.
- Pavane: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
- Free scores of this work in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
- Program notes from a concert of the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus featuring Fauré's Pavane, including French choral text with English translation
- An ASCII-based text and translation of the Pavane from The Lied and Art Songs Text Page
- on YouTube