Fauré • Pavane Op.50

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The Pavane Op.50 by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) is blessed with one of the most delectable and beloved melodies ever composed, and was from the start one of its composer’s most popular works, exuding the spirit of Paris’s fêtes galantes at the turn of the century.

The piece was originally composed for orchestra in 1887, described by Fauré at the time as “carefully crafted but not otherwise important”. Before the end of the year, there followed a version for chorus and orchestra. Some three decades later, the iconic impresario Serge Diaghilev had it choreographed for his Ballets Russes, a sign of its continuing great popularity.

Many transcriptions of the Pavane have existed, including the solo piano version published in 1889 (the composer’s duet version was also advertised, but if it ever appeared it has sadly been lost).

Many simplified versions have and continue to appear, but for those wanting to explore the original version (most likely prepared by Fauré himself, who performed it several times and even recorded it for player piano), Bärenreiter have just issued a superb urtext edition, BA 11832, the subject of this short review…

The Edition

Bärenreiter’s newly issued urtext edition is based on the musical text from “Gabriel Fauré Œuvres complètes”.

Editor Jean-Pierre Bartoli (whose superb edition of Fauré’s Five Impromptus I have previously praised here) used the first edition of 1889 as his main text (no autograph manuscript has been found), but also took account of the manuscript of the final orchestral version, its published edition, and a fascinating piano roll recording made by the composer himself in 1913.

The latter is extraordinary for many reasons, and happily the recording can be enjoyed right here:

Bärenreiter’s slightly oversized scores, arrayed in their vivid range of composer-coded colours (in Fauré’s case lilac), continue to be one of the great delights of published music, setting the highest standards not only in their cutting-edge scholarship but also in their impeccable presentation.

Within, the sixteen smooth cream pages include an informative introduction written by the editor, appearing in French, English and German. This offers an overview of the genesis of the work, its various incarnations, and suggestions on performing practice.

The score itself, which takes up five pages, is presented with clarity and beauty. In line with Bärenreiter’s editorial ethos, fingering suggestions have not been added, and the composer wrote none. The composer’s pedalling marks are reproduced however.

A strength of this publication that must also be mentioned is the care that has been taken to place the page turns as conveniently for the performer as possible. I truly wish more publishers would pay attention to this detail, which can make such a huge difference in practice.

The publication concludes with a detailed Critical Commentary that, remarkably for so short a piece, runs to two full pages.

Closing Thoughts

Fauré’s Pavane Op.50 proved the inspiration for Ravel’s beautiful Pavane pour une infante défunte (which followed in 1899, at which time its composer was a student of Fauré at the Conservatoire de Paris).

In common with that later work, Fauré’s Pavane is rather more difficult to play than it sounds, requiring suppleness and superb control of voicing, often playing both cantabile legato quavers and lightly detached staccato accompanying quavers simultaneously in the same hand. The piece is thus a wonderful work to both study and perform at around Grade 8 level, and though not a showpiece is sure to delight discerning audiences.

We can be grateful to editor Jean-Pierre Bartoli and publishers Bärenreiter for furnishing us with so superb a new and authoritative edition, and at such a very reasonable price. This Fauré Pavane is a highly recommended purchase!

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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, writer and composer based on Milton Keynes UK. His book HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is published by Hal Leonard.