Gabriel Fauré


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
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: Requiem / Spanjaard, Oelze, Peeters, Et Al
Release Date: 04/05/2005   Label: Pentatone  
Catalog: 5186020   Number of Discs: 1
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Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra - Fauré, Schoenberg / Vonk, St. Louis So
Release Date: 09/30/2008   Label: Pentatone  
Catalog: 5186324   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Cantique de Jean Racine, Op. 11


About This Work
At all stages of his career, Fauré was visited by suavely persuasive flights of fantasy transcending (or consolidating) the perennial refinement of his style. In the 20-year-old student's Cantique de Jean Racine, Op. 11 (1865), the serene Read more ardor of his four-part setting maintains its interest through the three brief stanzas of Racine's prayer -- "Word of God, one with the Most-High.... Pour on us the fire of thy mighty grace" -- with a poise into which his years of apprenticeship at the École Niedermeyer are graciously subsumed. Fauré had been a boarder at the prestigious Parisian music school from his ninth year, absorbing the lore of modal music and Renaissance polyphony which would not enjoy a public revival until the concerts of the Schola Cantorum in the early 1890s.

From Niedermeyer's death in 1861, Fauré was taught by the young Saint-Saëns, who was but a decade older, thus beginning a lifelong friendship which no doubt gave a fillip to the younger man's instinct for lucidity, classical proportion, and the sublimation of passion to supreme, subtly wrought eloquence. The Cantique de Jean Racine took the École Niedermeyer's first prize for composition in 1865, capping Fauré's student years with a prophetic triumph. Looking back in 1905, the mature composer saw fit to orchestrate the work's organ part for small orchestra.

-- Adrian Corleonis, All Music Guide Read less

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