Thursday, July 09, 2009

Floating on the Pavane

Yep, it's another piano recording, with me sitting at my piano and reminiscing by playing things I learned in high school. Because high school was a long time ago, I'm rusty with the stuff—really rusty. I enjoy playing it anyway, so here is something I learned at the age of 16 or so—Ravel's "Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte," or Pavane for a Dead Princess. The story goes it wasn't really written for a dead princess—the words just sound nice together, and Ravel was thinking of a specific still-living Spanish princess when he was composing.

This piece is significant to me not just because it helped me get through the angst of the teenage years, but because it has appeared and reappeared in my horn playing. Over two years ago, I posted a story about learning to play the horn—here is an excerpt of that story:

while in high school—"I showed up on the first day of school ready for the 'learners band,' because I was starting over. It wasn’t long before Mr. Castronova had us playing such moving pieces as 'Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte,' which was already one of my favorite compositions, even before I knew that the orchestration featured the horn. I remember playing my part boldly, in my head singing the melodies that I had learned on the piano. It was during that rehearsal that the directors decided I was ready for the wind ensemble, ready to play with more experienced students."

When I started taking horn lessons in my late 30s, my teacher showed up with a solo book and suggested I start learning a new song. He put the book on my stand and opened it up to the song he had in mind, and to my surprise, he thought I should work on Pavane. I had plenty to learn about it as far as playing the horn went, but I already had the thing well-embedded in my head and in my heart.

When I play it on the piano, I get lost in it, and I don't bother to count, and I miss notes here and there, not to mention rhythms and notations. But then I don't play for performance—I play as a kind of personal flotation device.


dive said...

Simply gorgeous, Robyn.
A personal flotation device is a wonderful thing when you can share it with others (though you should really employ Eustacia as a page-turner).

By the way, sorry to be pedantic (something you know is simply a lie … hee hee), but infante is prince; infanta is princess.

It's still gorgeous, even knowing that. And high school is never long ago or far away when you can do things like this.

Scout said...

Be pedantic if you must, Dive, but this is how my music reads, so I'll leave it alone.

I'm glad you liked the mess, though. I'll look for other songs to float on.

lynn said...

'Personal flotation' - perfect. Lovely, Robyn!

MmeBenaut said...

What a beautiful form of escape; especially floating which has to be the next best thing to downhill skiing.