Gabriel Faure

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Gabriel Faure

Gabriel Urbain Fauré (1845-1924), French composer, organist and teacher, can be said to have been a great part of the inspiration for the success of the generations of outstanding French composers from Claude Debussy, through Maurice Ravel to Francis Poulenc. Although fascinated by Richard Wagner and meeting Franz Liszt, he was one of the few composers of his generation not to be beguiled by them. He even eschewed the “classical” style of his teacher and fellow organist, Camille Saint-Saens, to whom he was devoted, and managed to forge a new modern-French style - especially in his songs and piano pieces - which was to take many years to be recognised.

He started studying music when he was nine – becoming organist and choirmaster at the Ecole Niedermeyer - then worked as a church musician at Rennes, and St. Sulplice, then the Madeleine, where he was under Saint Saens. Songs and piano pieces from this time were written in his summer holidays. In 1892 he was appointed chief inspector of provincial conservatories, and in 1896 composition teacher at the Paris Conservatoire, where he taught many of the budding composers of the day, including Ravel and Nadia Boulanger. He became director of the Conservatoire in 1905, about the time his compositions began to be recognised.

He is considered the master of the French song and the core of Fauré’s output are the songs; which range in style from the wistful or happy youth to the forceful confidence of maturity. Central is the cycle, “La Bon Chanson” and three other cycles, each of twenty songs. All in all he wrote 6 song cycles, over 60 other songs, and duets. He also wrote a celebrated “Requiem”, and other sacred pieces, and some secular choruses. He wrote a "song-opera", (“Pénélope)

His orchestral music is comparatively sparse but parts remain popular. The “Pavanne”, “Masque et Bergamasque” and incidental music to “Peleas and Melisande” (one of 6 plays he wrote for) are frequently performed.

His piano music consists mainly of barcarolles, nocturnes and impromptus, and the evolution of his style is reflected in them. The “Dolly” suite for two pianos is also popular in its orchestral form.

His chamber music which includes most of the forms of that genre, contains gems- the first Piano Quartet, with its sparkling and delicate second movement, is perhaps the most heard today.

Reference: The Grove Dictionary of Music.

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