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Gabriel Faure

1845 - 1924

Gabriel Urbain Fauré (12 May 1845 – 4 November 1924) was a French Romantic composer, organist, pianist and teacher. He was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th-century composers. Among his best-known works are his PavaneRequiemnocturnes for piano and the songs "Après un rêve" and "Clair de lune". Although his best-known and most accessible compositions are generally his earlier ones, Fauré composed many of his most highly regarded works in his later years, in a more harmonically and melodically complex style.

Fauré was born in Pamiers, Ariège, Midi-Pyrénées, in the south of France, the fifth son and youngest of six children of Toussaint-Honoré Fauré (1810–85) and Marie-Antoinette-Hélène Lalène-Laprade (1809–87). According to the biographer Jean-Michel Nectoux, the Fauré family (pronounced "Faoure" in the occitan local dialect) dates to the 13th century in that part of France. The family had at one time been substantial landowners, but by the 19th century its means were reduced. The composer's paternal grandfather, Gabriel, was a butcher whose son became a schoolmaster. In 1829 Fauré's parents married. His mother was the daughter of a minor member of the nobility. He was the only one of the six children to display musical talent; his four brothers pursued careers in journalism, politics, the army and the civil service, and his sister had a traditional life as the wife of a public servant.

When Fauré was born, Berlioz and Chopin were still composing; the latter was among Fauré’s early influences. In his later years Fauré developed compositional techniques that foreshadowed the atonal music of Schoenberg, and, later still, drew discreetly on the techniques of jazz.[ Duchen writes that early works such as the Cantique de Jean Racine are in the tradition of French nineteenth-century romanticism, yet his late works are as modern as any of the works of his pupils. 
By using unresolved mild discords and colouristic effects, Fauré anticipated the techniques of Impressionist composers.

In contrast with his harmonic and melodic style, which pushed the bounds for his time, Fauré's rhythmic motives tended to be subtle and repetitive, with little to break the flow of the line, although he used discreet syncopations, similar to those found in Brahms's works. Copland referred to him as "the Brahms of France".

Fauré is regarded as one of the masters of the French art song, or mélodie. Ravel wrote in 1922 that Fauré had saved French music from the dominance of the German Lied. Two years later the critic Samuel Langford wrote of Fauré, "More surely almost than any writer in the world he commanded the faculty to create a song all of a piece, and with a sustained intensity of mood which made it like a single thought". 

In Copland's view the early songs were written in the 1860s and 1870s under the influence of Gounod, and except for isolated songs such as "Après un rêve" or "Au bord de l'eau" there is little sign of the artist to come. With the second volume of the sixty collected songs written during the next two decades, Copland judged, came the first mature examples of "the real Fauré". He instanced "Les berceaux", "Les roses d'Ispahan" and especially "Clair de lune" as "so beautiful, so perfect, that they have even penetrated to America", and drew attention to less well known mélodies such as "Le secret", "Nocturne", and "Les présents". Fauré also composed a number of song cyclesCinq mélodies "de Venise", Op. 58 (1891), was described by Fauré as a novel kind of song suite, in its use of musical themes recurring over the cycle. For the later cycle La bonne chanson, Op. 61 (1894), there were five such themes, according to Fauré. He also wrote that La bonne chanson was his most spontaneous composition, with Emma Bardac singing back to him each day's newly written material.

The Requiem, Op. 48, was not composed to the memory of a specific person but, in Fauré's words, "for the pleasure of it." It was first performed in 1888. It has been described as "a lullaby of death" because of its predominantly gentle tone. Fauré omitted the Dies Irae, though reference to the day of judgment appears in the Libera me, which, like Verdi, he added to the normal liturgical text. Fauré revised the Requiem over the years, and a number of different performing versions are now in use, from the earliest, for small forces, to the final revision with full orchestra.

Fauré's operas have not found a place in the regular repertoire. Prométhée is the more neglected of the two, with only a handful of performances in more than a century. Copland considered Pénélope (1913) a fascinating work, and one of the best operas written since Wagner; he noted, however, that the music is, as a whole, "distinctly non-theatrical." The work uses leitmotifs, and the two main roles call for voices of heroic quality, but these are the only ways in which the work is Wagnerian. In Fauré's late style, "tonality is stretched hard, without breaking." On the rare occasions when the piece has been staged, critical opinion has generally praised the musical quality of the score, but has varied as to the dramatic effectiveness of the work. When the opera was first presented in London in 1970, in a student production by the Royal Academy of MusicPeter Heyworth wrote, "A score that offers rich rewards to an attentive ear can none the less fail to cut much ice in the theatre. ... Most of the music is too recessive to be theatrically effective." However, after a 2006 production at the Wexford Festival, Ian Fox wrote, "Fauré's Pénélope is a true rarity, and, although some lovely music was anticipated, it was a surprise how sure the composer's theatrical touch was."

"...represents the link between the late German Romanticism of Brahms ... and the French Impressionism of Debussy."

Jerry Dubins on the music of Faure


Key Works

Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 15

1. Allegro molto moderato 
2. Scherzo. Allegro vivo 
3. Adagio 
4. Finale. Allegro molto

Requiem, Op. 48

1. Introït et Kyrie (D minor) 0:00
2. Offertoire (B minor) 6:24
3. Sanctus (E-flat major) 14:36
4. Pie Jesu (B-flat major) 18:07
5. Agnus Dei et Lux Aeterna (F major) 21:48
6. Libera Me (D minor) 27:55
7. In Paradisum (D major) 32:16

Pavane in F-sharp minor, Op. 50

String Quartet in E minor, Op. 121

Allegro moderato - Andante - Allegro.

Sonata for violin and piano in A major No. 1, Op. 13

I - Allegro molto
II - Andante
III - Scherzo : Allegro vivo
IV - Finale : Allegro quasi presto

Ballade for Piano and Orchestra, Op.19

Élégie, Op 24 in C Minor for Cello and Orchestra

Dolly, Suite Op. 56 for Piano 4 hands

00:05 1. Berceuse
02:31 2. Mi-a-ou
04:27 3. Le Jardin de Dolly
07:12 4. Kitty-Valse
09:40 5. Tendresse
12:06 6. Le Pas Espagnol

Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 80

I. Prelude - Andante molto moderato 00:04:17
II. Andante 00:00:59
III. Andante moderato 00:01:04
IV. Fileuse - Allegretto moderato 00:02:41
V. Sicilienne - Allegretto molto moderato 00:03:38
VI. Chanson de Melisande - Molto lento 00:04:03

La bonne chanson, Op. 61

I. Une sainte en son auréole 00:00
II. Puisque l'arbe grandit 02:08
III. La lune blanche luit dans les bois 04:03
IV. J'allais par des chemins perfides 06:26
V. J'ai presque peur, en vérité 08:19
VI. Avant que tu ne t'en ailles 10:39
VII. Donc, ce sera par un clair jour d'été 13:41
VIII. N'est-ce pas? 16:21
IX. L'hiver a cessé, la lumière est tiède 18:50

Gabriel Fauré, 1914

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