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1659 (?) - 1695)

Pavane in G minor

arranged by Mark Starr for baroque or chamber orchestra
from Purcell's work for 3 violins and basso.

link to biography of Purcell

A demo recording of this arrangement -- realized with digital musical sounds -- will begin to play automatically upon opening this page.  If you do not wish listen to it, please click on the STOP button (or the PAUSE button) on the media player, below. You may wish to adjust the volume on your computer to a more comfortable level.


Purcell composed the Pavane in G minor for three violins and basso around 1677.  At that time, he was employed as Court Composer for the King's Twenty-Four Violins.  With 24 violinists (and many other musicians) at his disposal, it seems highly likely this Pavane was also performed by string ensembles during Purcell's lifetime -- especially since the work was intended to accompany dances at court. in which many couples participated.

While the origin of the word 'pavane' is not known with certainly, informed speculation focuses on two possibilities: the resemblance of 'pavane' to 'Padovana' (meaning a dance typical of Padua); and to the spanish word 'pavon' (meaning 'peacock.')  The pavane is a slow, stately dance that easily conjures up an image of the slow, stately walk of the peacock.

Display and stately walk of the peacock


Thoinot Arbeau, the 16th Century author of a French dance manual entitled Orchésographie, wrote that the pavane is generally a dance for many couples in procession.  Moreover, this dance was usually accompanied by tabor -- i.e., a small drum or tambourine basque.  The tabor played a steady rhythm consisting of a quarternote plus two eighthnotes [or, similarly, a halfnote plus two quarternotes.]  Presumably, the percussion beat served to keep the procession of couples in time with the instrumental ensemble.

In his arrangement of Purcell's Pavane in G minor for chamber orchestra (or Baroque Ensemble,) Mark Starr has added a tambourine to the score, keeping the characteristic rhythm of the Pavane until the allegro coda.  A small drum may be subsituted for the tambourine in performance.

The musical character of the pavane is usually sad or poignant -- and very expressive; and in this regard, Purcell's Pavane in G minor is no exception. 

by Edward Austin Abbey


harpsichord continuo
tabor (or tambourine basque)
duration: 4 minutes
This orchestration is suitable for both period instrumental ensembles and modern chamber orchestras.

The score and orchestral parts for public performance and/or recordings are available on rental from Noteworthy Musical Editions. This arrangement is copyright and registered with ASCAP.