(b Nogent-le-Rotrou, 27 April 1942). French musicologist. He studied the plastic arts before devoting himself to music (the piano, harmony and counterpoint) and musicology. He graduated in 1976 from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes with a dissertation on Alexis Castillon, written under the supervision of Lesure, and was awarded the doctorate by the Sorbonne in 1981 for his dissertation entitled Les sociétés de musique de chambre à Paris de la Restauration à 1870. He became a researcher at the CNRS in 1983. His main interest lies in the social history of music, and his research has been concentrated on French music in the 19th century, particularly chamber music and the work of Berlioz, Lalo and Franck and his pupils.
Catalogue de l'oeuvre de Charles Tournemire (Geneva, 1979)
Lalo (Madrid, 1980) [in Sp.]
Les sociétés de musique de chambre à Paris de la Restauration à 1870 (diss., U. of Paris, Sorbonne, 1981; Paris, 1986)
(b Pamiers, Ariège, 12 May 1845; d Paris, 4 Nov 1924). French composer, teacher, pianist and organist. The most advanced composer of his generation in France, he developed a personal style that had considerable influence on many early 20th-century composers. His harmonic and melodic innovations also affected the teaching of harmony for later generations.
He was the youngest of six children (one a daughter), born to Toussaint-Honoré Fauré (1810–85) and Marie-Antoinette-Hélène Lalène-Laprade (1809–87), a member of the minor aristocracy. Gabriel was sent to a foster-nurse in the village of Verniolle for four years. In 1849 his father was appointed director of the Ecole Normale at Montgauzy, near Foix; Fauré later recalled that from his early childhood he spent hours playing the harmonium in the chapel adjoining the school. An old blind lady, who came to listen and give advice, told his father about his gift for music; a certain Bernard Delgay shares the honour of having been his first music teacher. During the summer of 1853 Dufaur de Saubiac, official at the Paris Assemblée, heard him and advised his father to send him to the Ecole de Musique Classique et Religieuse, which Louis Niedermeyer had just established in Paris. After a year’s reflection, Toussaint-Honoré decided that the Ecole Niedermeyer, as it was later called, could prepare his son for the profession of choirmaster while cultivating his natural gifts. He took Gabriel to Paris (a three-day journey) in October 1854.
Fauré remained a boarder at the Ecole Niedermeyer for 11 years, during which he was helped by a scholarship from the Bishop of Pamiers. His studies, which had a crucial influence on his style, were chiefly of church music (plainsong, the organ and Renaissance polyphonic works) since the pupils were to become organists and choirmasters; the musical training was supplemented by serious literary studies. Fauré was taught the organ by Clément Loret, harmony by Louis Dietsch, counterpoint and fugue by Xavier Wackenthaler and the piano, plainsong and composition by Niedermeyer himself. Niedermeyer’s death (in March 1861) led to Fauré’s fortunate encounter with Saint-Saëns, who now took the piano class. He introduced his pupils to contemporary music, which was not part of the school syllabus, including that of Schumann, Liszt and Wagner, and his teaching soon extended beyond the piano to composition. Fauré’s first surviving works, romances on verses by Hugo and several piano pieces, date from this period (fig.1). His student career at the Ecole Niedermeyer was completed on 28 July 1865: he gained premiers prix in composition (for the Cantique de Jean Racine op.11), and in fugue and counterpoint. He had previously been awarded prizes for solfège (1857), harmony (1860) and piano (1860, with a special prize in 1862), and two literary prizes (1858 and 1862).
Fauré’s first appointment was as organist of St Sauveur at Rennes, where he remained from January 1866 to March 1870. Austere provincial life did not suit him, and he scandalized the local priest by accompanying the church scene of Gounod’s Faust at the theatre. Nevertheless he found some friendly families to whom he gave lessons. The chronology of his output to 1875 is imprecise. His years in Rennes were apparently a period of intensive composition, when he wrote some piano pieces for his pupils, various attempts in symphonic form, church music and his first songs, in which he was clearly searching for a personal style.
On returning to Paris he was immediately appointed assistant organist at the church of Notre-Dame de Clignancourt, where he remained for only a few months. During the Franco-Prussian War he enlisted (16 August 1870) in the first light infantry regiment of the Imperial Guard, from which he went to the 28th temporary regiment; he took part in the action to raise the siege of Paris. On being discharged (9 March 1871) he was appointed organist at the Parisian church of St Honoré d’Eylau. During the period of the Commune he stayed at Rambouillet, and he spent the whole summer in Switzerland, where he taught composition at the Ecole Niedermeyer, which had taken refuge in Cours-sous-Lausanne. On his return to Paris he was appointed assistant organist at St Sulpice (October 1871) and became a regular visitor at Saint-Saëns’s salon, where he met all the members of Parisian musical society; in 1872 Saint-Saëns introduced him into the salon of Pauline Viardot. His friends included d’Indy, Lalo, Duparc and Chabrier, with whom he formed the Société Nationale de Musique on 25 February 1871. The subsequent meetings of this society were the occasions of many of his works’ first performances.
In January 1874 he left St Sulpice to deputize for Saint-Saëns at the Madeleine during his absences. When Saint-Saëns resigned in April 1877, Théodore Dubois succeeded him as organist and Fauré became choirmaster. In July he became engaged to Marianne Viardot (daughter of Pauline) with whom he had been in love for five years, but the engagement was broken off in October by the girl, who felt only affection mixed with fear for her fiancé. Some friends, the Clerc family, helped him recover. It was about this time that he composed the three masterpieces of his youth: the First Violin Sonata, the First Piano Quartet and the Ballade for piano. A period of musical travels followed. In Weimar (December 1877) he met Liszt, who was performing Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila; he presented his Ballade op.19, which Liszt said he found too difficult to play. But his main concern was to see Wagner productions, and this led him to Cologne (April 1879) for Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, and to Munich for the Ring (September 1879), Tannhäuser (July 1880), Die Meistersinger (July 1880 and September 1881), Lohengrin and Tristan (September 1881) and to London for the Ring (May 1882). He was fascinated by Wagner but, almost alone among his contemporaries, did not come under his influence. He met Liszt again in July 1882 in Zürich.
On 27 March 1883 he married Marie Fremiet, the daughter of a highly regarded sculptor. Although he always retained great affection for his wife, her withdrawn, bitter and difficult character, coupled with his keen sensuality and desire to please, explain his infidelities. They had two sons, Emmanuel (b 29 Dec 1883; d 6 Nov 1971) and Philippe (b 28 July 1889; d 19 Nov 1954). To support his family Fauré spent most of his time in tedious and futile activities, such as organizing the daily service at the Madeleine (which he called his ‘mercenary job’), and giving piano and harmony lessons. His music brought him almost nothing because his publisher bought his songs, with full copyright, for 50 francs each. Throughout his life he was able to compose mainly during the summer holidays.
His principal compositions of this period were piano pieces and numerous songs, including those of his second collection (1878–87). He also attempted some large-scale compositions, but disowned them after a few performances, keeping manuscript copies of certain movements, from which he later re-used the themes. The works involved were the Symphony in D minor op.40 (his second symphony, taking into account that in F op.20, written in early youth and also rejected), and the Violin Concerto op.14, of which he completed only two movements. Such severe self-criticism is regrettable in that his wider reputation has suffered from the lack of large-scale works in his published output, despite the existence and enormous popularity of his Requiem op.48. The success of this work cannot be explained without reference to the religious works which preceded it: the Cantique de Jean Racine (1865), some motets and (particularly) the touching Messe basse for female voices, written in 1881 during a holiday at Villerville on the Normandy coast. The Requiem was not composed to the memory of a specific person but, in Fauré’s words, ‘for the pleasure of it’; it was long unknown that the work took over 20 years to assume its present form, the composition extending from 1877 to about 1893, and the re-orchestration for full ensemble being completed only in 1900. A restoration of the version that evolved between 1888 and 1892, for small orchestra (without violins and woodwind), was published only in 1995. The other important work of this period is the Second Piano Quartet op.45. And for the Théâtre de l’Odéon Fauré composed two sets of incidental music: Caligula op.52 (1888) for the tragedy by Dumas père, and Shylock op.57 (1889) for a play by Edmond de Haraucourt after Shakespeare. He valued incidental music as a form, writing to Saint-Saëns in 1893 that it was ‘the only [form] which is suited to my meagre talents’. The symphonic suite from Shylock is seldom played, despite the scarcity of symphonic works by Fauré.
Until he was about 40 Fauré retained his youthful liveliness and gaiety, was easily satisfied and happy with his friends and was without any marked ambition or self-importance. The breaking of his engagement to Marianne Viardot, however, brought out a certain violence in his temperament in spite of his apparent good nature. In the years 1880–90 he often suffered from depression, which he himself called ‘spleen’. Too many occupations prevented him from concentrating on composition; he was disturbed about writing too slowly and dreamt of vast works – concertos, symphonies and innumerable operatic projects in collaboration with Verlaine, Bouchor, Samain, Maeterlinck, Mendès and others. As the years passed he despaired of ever reaching the public and was angry with performers who played ‘always the same eight or ten pieces’. His jealousy (quickly forgotten) was aroused by the popularity of Théodore Dubois, Charles Lenepveu, Charles-Marie Widor and Massenet, and his taste for musical purity and sobriety of expression made him condemn the Italian verismo.
The 1890s were a turning-point in his life and work; he began to realize some of his ambitions: in May and June 1891 he was received in Venice, with a group of friends, by the Princesse Edmond de Polignac, then Princesse de Scey-Montbéliard. This delightful visit, prolonged by a brief stay in Florence, occasioned the Cinq mélodies op.58 on poems by Verlaine; these directly anticipate La bonne chanson. It was also the period of his happy liaison with Emma Bardac, the future second Mme Debussy, to whom he dedicated La bonne chanson and the Salve regina; to her daughter he dedicated Dolly (1894–6), the collection for piano duet. In May 1892 he succeeded Ernest Guiraud as inspector of the national conservatories in the provinces; this post relieved him of his teaching but obliged him to make tedious journeys across the whole of France. On 2 June 1896 he became chief organist at the Madeleine, and in October he succeeded Massenet as teacher of the composition class at the Conservatoire. For Fauré this was an act of retribution, as he had been refused the post four years earlier when the director, Ambroise Thomas, thought him too revolutionary, even though the Institut had awarded him the Chartier Prize for chamber music in 1885; he had won it again in 1893. His pupils at the Conservatoire included Ravel, Florent Schmitt, Koechlin, Louis Aubert, Roger-Ducasse, Enescu, Paul Ladmirault, Nadia Boulanger and Emile Vuillermoz.
Now over 50, Fauré was becoming known. He had previously been esteemed only by a restricted group of friends and musicians in the Société Nationale de Musique; and this was not fame, for his music was too modern to appear in a concert where even Wagner was considered advanced. He was not, however, a stereotype of the rejected artist, for he was much fêted in the grand salons, such as those of Mme de Saint-Marceaux and of the Princesse Edmond de Polignac, which were then the stronghold of the avant garde. Music was important to a society passionately interested in ‘art’ and its fashions. Proust, who knew Fauré, was, as he once wrote to him, ‘intoxicated’ by his music, and drew his inspiration for the descriptions of Vinteuil’s music from it. Both Proust and Fauré have been criticized for the brilliant but superficial company they kept. But Fauré was not snobbish, and moved in these circles through friendship and also out of necessity, since the salons offered the best means of making his music known. Most of his friends probably admired his personality more than his music, which was considered too complicated. He was always so unsure of the real value of his compositions that he submitted them to the judgment of colleagues before publication; and he needed this private recognition to encourage him to continue. As a pianist he was not a virtuoso, such as his friend Saint-Saëns was, but he was an admirable performer of his works, as is shown by a dozen player piano rolls that he recorded for the firms Hupfeld and Welte-Mignon between 1904 and 1913. The rolls of the Romance sans paroles no.3, Barcarolle no.1, Prelude no.3, Pavane, Nocturne no.3, Sicilienne, Thème et variations and Valses-caprices nos.1, 3 and 4 survive, and several rolls have been re-recorded on disc.
He often went to London for private festivals organized by loyal friends like the Maddisons, Frank Schuster and John Singer Sargent (who painted his portrait); he returned almost every year between 1892 and 1900, and so acquired the commission to write incidental music for the English translation of Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande (1898). The original version for small orchestra was orchestrated by Koechlin, as Fauré was too overworked; Fauré drew from it a Suite op.80, which is his symphonic masterpiece. Saint-Saëns, who urged Fauré to write large-scale works, got him a commission for a lyric tragedy for the amphitheatre at Béziers. This work, Prométhée, being intended for open-air performance, is scored for three wind bands, 100 strings and 12 harps, choirs and solo voices. The success of the productions on 27 and 28 August 1900 was immense; the work was revived there on 25 and 27 August 1901, and in Paris on 5 and 15 December 1907. With the help of his favourite pupil Roger-Ducasse, Fauré completed a reduction of the original orchestration for normal symphony orchestra, a version introduced at the Paris Opéra on 17 May 1917.
From 2 March 1903 to 1921 Fauré was music critic of Le Figaro. He was not a natural critic and was prompted mainly by need to accept a duty that he fulfilled with some inner torment. His natural kindness and broad-mindedness predisposed him to see the positive aspects of a work, and he had no inclination to polemics. When he disliked a composition, he preferred to remain silent. His criticisms are not brilliant, but interesting to those who know how to read between the lines.
The year 1905 marked a crucial stage in his career: in October he succeeded Théodore Dubois as director of the Conservatoire, where he initiated a series of important reforms that led to the resignations of certain reactionary professors. In carrying out his aims he showed such astonishing resoluteness that his adversaries nicknamed him ‘Robespierre’. The directorship made him better off, though not rich (he had never sought wealth), and it also made him suddenly famous: his works were performed at important concerts, and on 13 March 1909 he was elected to the Institut, succeeding Ernest Reyer (he had been passed over in favour of Théodore Dubois in 1894 and Lenepveu in 1896). His official position did not prevent him from breaking with the established Société Nationale de Musique in the same year and accepting the presidency of a dissident society founded by the young musicians evicted by the Société Nationale, nearly all of whom were his pupils (fig.2). Also his late recognition was overshadowed by growing deafness, and, still worse, the general weakening of his hearing was compounded by a systematic distortion that produced, he said, a ‘veritable cacophony’: high sounds were heard a 3rd lower, low sounds a 3rd higher, while the middle of the range remained correct.
The responsibilities of the Conservatoire left him too little time to compose, and it took him five summers to finish the lyric drama Pénélope, which the singer Lucienne Bréval had persuaded him to write in collaboration with René Fauchois. It was begun in 1907, set aside in 1910, and finished just in time for the première (inadequately rehearsed by Raoul Gunsbourg) in Monte Carlo on 4 March 1913. The Paris première on 10 May 1913 was a triumph, but the run was terminated by the bankruptcy of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées the following October, and the revival at the Opéra-Comique was delayed for five years by World War I. The work never recovered from this unhappy beginning, despite its musical qualities. The period of Pénélope was also that of great piano pieces (Nocturnes nos.9–11, Barcarolles nos.7–11) and songs (the cycle La chanson d’Eve op.95, to verses by Van Lerberghe). In autumn 1910 Fauré undertook his most extended journey. Concerts were organized in St Petersburg, where he had a triumphant reception, Helsinki and Moscow. For his composing holidays he generally returned to Switzerland, where he found the calm he needed. Pénélope was composed at Lausanne and Lugano, while the gardens of the Italian lakes inspired Paradis, the first song of La chanson d’Eve, written at Stresa.
During the war Fauré remained in Paris as head of the Conservatoire, giving up his visits to Switzerland in favour of Evian or the south of France, which he loved. The years of the war, with the years 1894–1900, were the most productive of his life. His compositions of this period are among the most powerful in French music, having unusual force and even violence; they include the Second Violin Sonata (op.108), the First Cello Sonata (op.109), the Fantaisie for piano and orchestra op.111 and a second song cycle on poems by Van Lerberghe, Le jardin clos. During this productive period, which continued without interruption until 1921, he revised for the Durand editions the complete piano works of Schumann (one of his favourite composers) and, in collaboration with Joseph Bonnet, the organ works of Bach.
In October 1920 he retired from the Conservatoire. Having reached the age of 75, he could at last devote himself entirely to composition, and produced a series of works that crown his whole output: the Second Cello Sonata, the Second Piano Quintet, the song cycle L’horizon chimérique and the Nocturne no.13. He had by now become a celebrity: in 1920 he was awarded the Grand-Croix of the Légion d’Honneur (exceptional for a musician), and on 20 June 1922 his friend Fernand Maillot organized a national tribute at the Sorbonne, where noted performers of his music played to an enthusiastic gathering in the presence of President Millerand. His last two years were overshadowed by declining health, with increasing symptoms of sclerosis, poor breathing (due to heavy smoking) and deafness. In 1922 and 1923 he spent long months in his room while his work was acclaimed everywhere; Pénélope was staged in Antwerp and in the Roman theatre at Orange, and Prométhée at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, where Mengelberg had just conducted the Requiem. To the end, however, he made himself available to others, particularly to such young musicians as Arthur Honegger, who with other members of Les Six fervently admired him. His creative faculties remained intact, but were easily tired; however, the two works he wrote between 1922 and 1924 – the Piano Trio and the String Quartet, his first attempt in that form – were masterpieces.
All witnesses agree that Fauré was extraordinarily attractive; he had a dark complexion (which contrasted with his white hair), a somewhat distant expression of the eyes, a soft voice and gentle manner of speech that retained the rolled provincial ‘r’, and a simple and charming bearing. His eventual fame did not modify his simple habits; he remained sympathetic towards others and clearsighted in his judgments. In old age he attained a kind of serenity, without losing any of his remarkable spiritual vitality, but rather removed from the sensualism and the passion of the works he wrote between 1875 and 1895.