Gabriel Fauré

Biography

Born: 1845   Died: 1924   Country: France   Period: Romantic
When Gabriel Fauré was a boy, Berlioz had just written La damnation de Faust and Henry David Thoreau was writing Walden. By the time of his death, Stravinsky had written The Rite of Spring and World War I had ended in the devastation of Europe. In this dramatic period in history, Fauré strove to bring together the best of traditional and progressive music and, in the process, created some of the most exquisite works in the French repertoire. He Read more was one of the most advanced figures in French musical circles and influenced a generation of composers world-wide.

Fauré was the youngest child of a school headmaster and spent many hours playing the harmonium in the chapel next to his father's school. Fauré's father enrolled the 9-year-old as a boarder at the École Niedermeyer in Paris, where he remained for 11 years, learning church music, organ, piano, harmony, counterpoint, and literature. In 1861, Saint-Saëns joined the school and introduced Fauré and other students to the works of more contemporary composers such as Schumann, Liszt, and Wagner. Fauré's earliest songs and piano pieces date from this period, just before his graduation in 1865, which he achieved with awards in almost every subject. For the next several years, he took on various organist positions, served for a time in the Imperial Guard, and taught. In 1871 he and his friends -- d'Indy, Lalo, Duparc, and Chabrier -- formed the Société Nationale de Musique, and soon after, Saint-Saëns introduced him to the salon of Pauline Viardot and Parisian musical high society. Fauré wrote his first important chamber works (the Violin Sonata No. 1 and Piano Quartet No. 1), then set out on a series of musical expeditions to meet Liszt and Wagner. Throughout the 1880s, he held various positions and continued to write songs and piano pieces, but felt unsure enough of his compositional talents to attempt anything much larger than incidental music. Fauré's pieces began to show a complexity of musical line and harmony which were to become the hallmarks of his music. He began to develop a highly original approach to tonality, in which modal harmony and altered scales figured largely. The next decade, however, is when Fauré came into his own. He was named composition professor at the Paris Conservatoire in 1896. His music, although considered too advanced by most, gained recognition amongst his musical friends. This was his first truly productive phase, seeing the completion of his Requiem, the Cinq Mélodies, and the Dolly Suite, among other works. Using an economy of expression and boldness of harmony, he built the musical bridge over which his students -- such as Maurice Ravel and Nadia Boulanger -- would cross on their journey into the twentieth century. In 1905, he was named director of the conservatory and made several significant reforms. Ironically, this position gave his works more exposure, but it reduced his time for composition and came when he was increasingly bothered by hearing problems. Fauré's works of this period show the last, most sophisticated stages of his writing, streamlined and elegant in form. During World War I, Fauré essentially remained in Paris and had another extremely productive phase, producing, among other things, Le Jardin clos and the Fantaisie for piano and orchestra, Op. 111, which show a force and violence that make them among the most powerful pieces in French music. In 1920 he retired from the school, and the following year gave up his music critic position with Le Figaro, which he had held since 1903. Between then and his death in 1924, he would produce his great, last works: several chamber works and the song cycle L'horizon chimérique. Read less
Gabriel Faure: Lydia's Vocalises
Release Date: 08/12/2014   Label: Linn Records  
Catalog: 488   Number of Discs: 1
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Prokofiev, Franck: Cello Sonatas;  Fauré / Hans Pålsson, Etc
Release Date: 02/01/1994   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 35   Number of Discs: 1
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Fauré, Duruflé: Requiem / Malmberg, Persson, Et Al
Release Date: 03/28/2006   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 1206   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Requiem, Op. 48

 

About This Work
Given the enormous and enduring popularity of Fauré's Requiem, it is curious to contemplate the sheer haphazardness by which this familiar masterpiece took shape. The initial version of 1887-1888 included but five movements, lacking the Read more Offertorium and the Libera me, and was scored moreover for mixed choir and organ, harp, tympani, violas, and cellos divided, and double basses, with a boy soprano (for the Pie Jesu), and a solo violin for the Sanctus. This version was first heard at the Madeleine, where Fauré was choirmaster, on January 16, 1888, with children taking the soprano choral parts and the young Louis Aubert singing the Pie Jesu. These gentle prayers were found to be dangerous "novelties" by the Madeleine's vicar, and the composer was reprimanded for them immediately following the ceremony. By May, two trumpets and two horns had been added. And in June 1889, the Offertorium was composed and added with a Libera me dating from 1877. Parts for trombones, bassoons, and violins were sketched and may have been included in a performance at the Madeleine on January 21, 1893 -- the manuscripts are ambiguous. Likewise, it is not known whether the elision of several bars from the Kyrie was made before or after that performance. Attempts to reconstruct the intimate, "authentic" 1893 chamber ensemble version of the Requiem have yielded two editions: one by composer and choral director John Rutter, the other by Fauré scholar Jean-Michel Nectoux. Although similar, these editions differ in details of both scoring and text. Meanwhile, a third and final version of the Requiem with full orchestra was prepared in 1899, though it has been impossible to establish whether the instrumentation is Fauré's or that of his pupil, Jean Roger-Ducasse. This "symphonic" Requiem -- the version most often performed and recorded -- had its premiere at the Trocadéro, July 12, 1900, with a chorus of 250, a Torrès taking the Pie Jesu (a number that had to be encored), Eugène Gigout at the organ, and the orchestra and chorus of the Conservatoire under the direction of Paul Taffanel.

Throughout, the suggestion of Gregorian chant informed by modern measure and melos lends Fauré's idiom immediate appeal and an aura of timelessness at once. The Requiem's seven movements form an arch whose keystone and crown is the central Pie Jesu -- the lone voice petitioning its savior for eternal rest in long-breathed, classically balanced, tender, and infinitely moving phrases -- flanked by the serene lift of the Sanctus (over which an exquisite violin cantilena wafts) and the gently consoling Agnus Dei. Coming before and after, respectively, the somber Offertorium and Libera me are reminders of judgment, the more effective for being understated, with their baritone solos standing forth from the choral body to plead for deliverance and rest. At the extreme points, the opening darkly hued Introit and Kyrie are balanced by the sublime radiance of the final In Paradisum -- "There may the choir of angels receive thee, and, with Lazarus, once a beggar, mayst thou have eternal rest."

-- Adrian Corleonis, All Music Guide Read less

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