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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
Fauré: Sonatas For Violin & Piano / Faust, Boffard
Release Date: 07/08/2008   Label: Harmonia Mundi Musique D'abord  
Catalog: 1951741   Number of Discs: 1
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Fauré: Requiem, Cantique De Jean Racine / Equilbey, Piau, Degout, Et Al
Release Date: 11/18/2008   Label: Naive  
Catalog: 5137   Number of Discs: 1
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The Best Of Fauré
Release Date: 06/22/1999   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8556679   Number of Discs: 1
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Fauré: Orchestral Music / Georgiadis, Rte Sinfonietta, Et Al
Release Date: 05/26/1998   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8553360   Number of Discs: 1
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Fauré: Cello Sonatas / Kliegel, Tichman
Release Date: 05/27/2008   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8557889   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Sicilienne for Cello and Piano, Op. 78

 

About This Work
The Sicilienne is among Fauré's most familiar pieces; it began life as an orchestral sketch in March 1893, intended as incidental music for a revival of Molière's Le Bourgeois gentilhomme at Paul Porel's Eden-Théâtre. Left Read more incomplete as that establishment went bankrupt, Fauré rounded it off and arranged it for cello and piano only in 1898, even as he passed the score along to his pupil Charles Koechlin to orchestrate as an item in the incidental music for a London production of Maeterlinck's Pelléas et Mélisande, where it introduces the scene at the beginning of Act Two, in which Mélisande's wedding ring slips from her finger and disappears into a well as she plays gently with Pelléas -- a use for which it seems predestined. In this form it was first heard with the play's opening at the Prince of Wales' Theatre on June 21, 1898, with Fauré conducting. Given its effectiveness, it was inevitable that Fauré should have included it among the four numbers of his Pelléas et Mélisande Suite, heard for the first time on December 1, 1912, conducted by André Messager. The common practice of publishers in issuing multiple arrangements of works likely to catch on -- for piano, or piano and solo instrument -- ensured that the Sicilienne's lilting wistfulness would become known around the world in the version for cello and piano, published in London by Metzler and Hamelle in Paris in 1898. Like a zephyr, the Sicilienne, with its hypnotically fluid melody carried, as it were, on waves of soothing arpeggiation, evokes a mood of mildly delirious nostalgia. If all music, as Vladimir Jankélévitch has remarked, is nostalgic in a certain manner, the Sicilienne is nostalgic music par excellence, for it embodies a truly existential, or perhaps mysterious, yearning for some undefined, imagined place, a Sicily in the luxuriant realm of dreams.

-- Adrian Corleonis, All Music Guide Read less

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