For much of the 19th century any new opera performed at
the Paris Opéra was required to include a ballet
sequence, usually during the second Act, something that
famously caused Wagner considerable difficulty when
Tannhäuser was staged there in 1861. For a fastidious
composer like Saint-Saëns the production of engaging
and wonderfully melodic divertissements was no
From the long forgotten grand opera ?Etienne Marcel?
with its patriotic and revolutionary themes of six
dances from the third act including the "Pavane".
Tchaikovsky had a low opinion of this opera and in a
letter to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck, wrote, ?it
is a completely insignificant, even undistinguished
work. It's banal, dry, boring, shameless, and without
any character.? Whilst that damming critique may be
true of the opera as a whole it could hardly be
levelled at these lively dances that even include a
?Valse? worthy of Tchaikovsky himself.
The pavane, pavan, paven, pavin, pavian, pavine, or
pavyn is a slow processional dance common in Europe
during the 16th century (Renaissance). The Pavane is
taken from act III of the Etienne Marcel and although
originally written as an opera with orchestra, this
arrangement for flute and piano was made by the famous
French flutist Paul Taffanel.