Personalities | Gabriel Fauré | Late Romantic | Classical
(Ga-bre-el’ Fô-ra’) 1845–1924
Fauré, a pre-eminent master of French song, studied with Saint-Saëns in 1866, and succeeded him as as chief organist at the Madeleine in 1896. Fauré was appointed Director at the Paris Conservatoire (1905–20) and also served as critic for Le Figaro.
Fauré’s music is quintessentially French: lyrical, elegant, richly sonorous and harmonically beguiling, with a sensuous use of modes. His lyrical inspiration also pervades his Requiem (1887) and opera Pénélope (1913). His piano works owe much to Chopin, as is shown by their descriptions as impromptus, barcarolles and nocturnes, yet display distinctively French sonorities that also permeate the impassioned Second Violin Sonata (1917) and his piano quartets.
Fauré is central to late-Romantic vocal repertory. His oeuvre of over 100 songs, in three collections (1879, 1897, 1908) and four major cycles, offers challenges to even the greatest singers. Many of the earliest were written for the charismatic Spanish soprano Pauline Viardot, to whose sister Fauré was briefly engaged. Most popular of his first stylistic period (1870–85) are Lydia, with its punning use of the Lydian mode, the beguiling Aprés un reve (‘After a Dream’) and the plangent Les berceaux (‘The Cradles’). Here, the gently swaying accompaniment symbolizes the rocking of both the babies’ cradles and of the ships that transport their fathers through threatening seas. Fauré’s second style period (1885–1906) is significant for its masterly settings of Verlaine, the famous Clair de lune and two cycles in which individual songs are related thematically. In his late period (1906–24), Fauré set poetry by the Belgian symbolist Van Lerberghe in the cycles La chanson d’Eve (‘Song of Eve’) and Le jardin clos (‘The Secret Garden’), which attain a refined and visionary style of great expressive heights.
Requiem; Fauré/Messager: Messe des pêcheurs de Villerville, soloists, Chapelle Royale, Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Louis, Ensemble Musique Oblique (cond) Philippe Herreweghe (Harmonia Mundi)
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