Ricardo Viñes premiered the Pavane pour une infante défunte
on 5 April 1902, by which time Ravel was coming to general notice as a promising talent. The Pavane
is probably the earliest of his pieces that ‘everybody knows’. But its success was always a little galling for Ravel, as he came to recognize its shortcomings and (again) its dependence on Chabrier. He was also irritated by pianists who played it too slowly, prompting him on one occasion to remark that it was the princess that was defunct, not the pavane. On the other hand, ‘one mustn’t turn it into a drama’. The answer perhaps lies in his suggestion that ‘at the same time as making the accompaniment secondary to the tune, you must insist on the latter’s slightly mechanical aspect’. Not for the last time, a Ravel piece turns out to be aesthetically more complex than it seems.
from notes by Roger Nichols © 2011