Horn 1: d1 - c3
Horn 2: d - c#2
Horn 3: a - a2
Horn 4: G - a1
Horn 5: a - a2
Horn 6: e - c#2
Horn 7: f# - b2
Horn 8: D - b
No specialised horn ensemble publisher’s catalogue would be complete without at least one version of Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante defunte (one other example being Martinet’s version for the Baltimore Horn Club). Usually the arrangements are for eight horns, and this one is no exception. So what is the point in having so many (more or less) different versions of the same piece? Well, while the basic structure and tune is the same, there are enough differences to make each one special in its own way, and this variety of options provides more colour and orchestration options to choose a favourite from.
The similarities: Nobody yet felt the need to change the original key, and this arrangement is no different. With the opening solo hard-wired in every horn players brain (and fingers), seeing anything else than a D (in F), or C (in G), sounding like a G (in real pitch) would be close to blasphemy. The tempo marking Lent is another constant, but Lynsdale-Nock gives a crotchet (quarter) equals 60 rather than 54 (as in the original score). The solo is also given to horn 1, as usual, and horns 4 and 8 play the bass line. That is about it.
The differences: There are quite a few, so perhaps it is best to only note the most obvious ones. The articulation of the solo line is different. The over-arching slur (or phrasing slur) is completely missing, with only several notes tied to the next. This is highly unusual, and reads as if 50% of the notes actually had to be attacked (presumably with a soft tongue). It probably doesn’t matter all that much, as any performer will just do their own articulation, but it’s something interesting to note. The opening accompaniment figure is also treated differently, with one player staying on the third (repeated quaver (eights) F sharps), and horns 6 and 7 alternating on the on-beats (D) and off-beats (A).
At the end of the first phrase there is the next surprise: after a short harp-imitation in horn 5, the melody stays in this voice, effectively breaking the solo up in two parts (before and after the F sharp re-attack). This is done every time the theme comes back, and features parts 1, 3 and 5. The other “high” part, horn 7, is treated less favourable, with only one moment to shine later on.
In the faster section (the one that goes higher, after the re-statement of the opening theme), Lynsdale-Nock uses the higher register, reaching the highest note of the arrangement, top C. This section is effectively split among the high parts, so that no one gets too tired. After the recapitulation in horn 3 (and horn 1 taking over for the second part of the theme), we encounter the lowest note of the work (pedal D) in the final chord, and an easier ending for horn 1 than the Martinet version (“only” high F sharp, not A).
Overall there are enough differences in this arrangement to any other one to make it a welcome addition to the world of variations on Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante defunte. Well done, and available at a fairly competitive price, this audience-pleaser will do well in your next horn ensemble concert.
Provision of review score: John Lynsdale-Nock (Corniworld)