Gabriel Fauré is a French composer who lived from 1845 – 1924. He bridged the Romantic period and the 20th century. He was taught and influenced by many (now) well-known composers and he taught and influenced many who became well-known composers and musicians.
Fauré began, as many composers do, with piano. When he was just 9 years old, he was heard playing by Louis Neidermeyer. Neidermeyer was so impressed that he was immediately enrolled as a student at Ecole Neidermeyer. One of his teachers there was Saint-Saëns, who is on our list to look at when we reach the letter S. Studying at the music school brought out even more of Fauré’s ability. When he left the school after about 11 years, he had earned recognition and prized in piano, organ, and composition.
Fauré spent much of his life as an organist, teacher, and composer, though the last 10 years of his life were his most prolific writing period. While studying at the music school, he studied music by Wagner and Lizst and Chopin, among others. These were considered quite modern composers and not preferred by many of the instructors at this time.
In 1896, Fauré was appointed as an instructor at the Paris Conservatoire. He took over as head of the conservatoire. He instituted many changes that were not well liked, including studying some of the music that other instructors of this time did not approve of. Many instructors resigned as a result. He remained at head of the Paris Conservatoire until 1920, influencing composers such as Debussy and Ravel. He resigned then because of increasing deafness and ill health. He died in 1924 of pneumonia.
Fauré is not well known for his larger works, though he did write a few. He is mostly known for his smaller, more intimate pieces. His first piece was Trois romances sans paroles (1863). He was still a student when he wrote it. Below is number 3 of the trio.
Some of the piano pieces that Fauré wrote include thirteen nocturnes, thirteen barcarolles, six impromptus, and four valses-caprices. His also wrote a number of shorter piano pieces and a set of piano duets known as the Dolly Suite.
Perhaps one of his more well known pieces is one of his many, many songs. “Clair de lune“, (“Moonlight”) Op. 46 No 2, is a song composed in 1887 to words by Paul Verlaine.
Other vocal works include a couple of operas, which are seldom performed, and Requiem in D minor, Op. 48. Fauré’s Requiem is a bit different than most in that he omits the Dies irae, an unusual thing. In 1921, he is quoted about this piece saying “Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.” According to sources, the last two parts of this piece are heard in many movies.
Another type of composing that Fauré did was incidental music for plays and dramas. His most famous is for Maurice Maeterlinck’s play Pelleas et Melisande (1898). Below is the suite for this Op. 80.
Resources for more reading:
Lori, At Home.