Gabriel Faure: The Composer And His Music

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Gabriel Fauré, born in 1845 in Pamiers, a quiet town at the foot of the Pyrenees, in Southern France, was a teacher and a composer who was considered one of the most influential musicians of his era.

His father, who was also a teacher upon recognizing his son’s musical talent, took him to Paris to study organ and composition. Camille Saint-Saëns was Fauré’s teacher in composition.

In 1877 Fauré became choirmaster at the Church of the Madeleine. He finally became its organist in 1896. He also became a teacher of composition at the Paris Conservatory in the same year. Among his pupils there include Roger-Ducasse, Enesco, Florent Schmitt, and Ravel. Nadia Boulanger, who became a mentor of many American composers, was also his pupil.

NHK Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy. Wiener Musikverein Großer Saal, Vienna, 2005.

Gabriel Fauré, as a composer, is best known through his vocal and chamber music. Some of his finest ideas are contained in his violin sonatas, cello sonatas, and quintets for piano. The ninety-six songs that he wrote were mostly gently flowing, often passionate, yet rarely dramatic. The piano accompaniments that serve as backgrounds for the voice are very graceful. Many songs that were composed by Faure became widely known and remain the well-loved choices among many of the classical musicians to this day. These include “Apres un Rêve,” “Lydia,” “Clair de Lune,” and the song cycle La Bonne Chanson. His Pavane for orchestra and Requiem Mass are also performed often.

His compositions for piano music, which were charming pieces of nocturnes, impromptus, barcaroles, and waltzes, reflect his admiration for Chopin. These were little known outside of France.

His music, though they may sound simple, were exquisitely done with interpolations of gentle experiments, bringing out a simplicity like that of a polished gem. Underrated in the eyes and ears of the general public, Fauré has been overshadowed by Ravel and Debussy in the world at large. But he was one of the first composers at the turn of the modern era to utilize medieval modes or church scales. These led him to create harmonies, with poignant melodies, exuding a sense of nostalgia for the past.

Mark Kosower, concert cellist, plays Faure’s Aprés un Rêve. Recorded on June 3, 2007 at Christ and St. Stephens Church, NYC for The Omega Ensemble on the occasion of the First Joint Appearance of Mark Kosower and Axel Strauss

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