FAUR (Pierre-Alain Volondat) (Naxos: 8.553741)
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Gabriel Faure (1845-1924) Piano Music
Born in 1845 in southern France, theyoung Faure was both reticent and apart. A possibly unwanted addition to alarge family, he was the sixth child of Honore and Marie-Antoinette-Hel?¿neFaure and spent his first four years away from home with a foster nurse.
Despite provincial beginnings, Fame soonfound his way to Paris and to music school. He studied at Niedermeyer's Ecolede Musique Classique et Religieuse, devoted to the study of music of thesixteenth and seventeenth centuries, training for a career as a choirmaster andorganist. Niedermeyer kept the young composer well away from the influences ofthe new Romantics and it was not until the appointment of Saint-Sa?½ns as histeacher that Faure was introduced to contemporary artists and musicians such asLiszt, Schumann and Wagner.
After a spell as organist at SaintSauveur in Rennes, he was back in Paris at Notre-Dame-de-Clignancoutt by 1870.
The conflict with Prussia saw Faure conscripted and experiencing the horrors ofwar and an ensuing revolution. Despite French defeat in 1871, Faure became amember of a new patriotic group aiming to promote French music. War was soonfar enough past for Faure and Saint-Sa?½ns to enjoy a trip to Weimar where theyfell under the spell of Wagner, leading to the opera Penelope.
Faure married in 1883 and produced twosons. His father died in 1885, his mother two years later, inspiring his bestknown work, the Requiem. Despite this bleak period, Faure wroteincidental music to plays including Maeterlinck's Pelleas et Melisande.
In 1896 Faure was at last appointed tothe staff of the Conservatoire and by the beginning of the new century hisfortunes were further in the ascendant. In 1901 he became a professor at theEcole Niedermeyer and music critic of Le Figara in 1903. In 1905 he wasappointed director of the Conservatoire. By now Faure had begun to suffer thatcruelest of afflictions for a musician. Like Beethoven, he was becoming deaf.
The war years after 1914 saw Faure in poorfinancial conditions and forced to take up music editing. By 1921, hiscomposing days seemed to have come to a halt. He began to fear that inspirationhad finally left him. June 1924 saw him struggling to complete a Quartet. Hedied in November of that year, having returned to Paris to be with his family.
This quiet genius of French music was given a state funeral at the Madeleine,attended by the President of the Republic. His wife died one year later.
Despite the influence of the German lateRomantics such as Wagner and Liszt, Faure never aspired to being a composer oflarge scale orchestral music. Exceptions are his opera and perhaps the Requiem,not a Mass in the usual Romantic fashion days of wrath and judgement. Hewas the greatest French composer of chamber music and master of the small formthat includes the many pieces that he wrote for the piano. His works bearsimple titles such as Mazurka or Valse Caprice. A keyboard playerby training and by love, even those pieces known in their later orchestralguises, such as Pelleas and Melisande and the famous Pavane, wereoften orchestrated by other composers.
This disc is part of a series of Faure'scomplete piano music and contains two works better known in orchestral formwith some less well known originals.
The four pieces from Pelleas etMelisande in their original version are some of the most subtle of thecomposer's music written for the stage. The opening Prelude sets thescene and introduces themes representing the naivety of the heroine and thepassion she is unable to escape. This is followed by a Fileuse, theintroduction to Act 3 where Melisande is at her spinning wheel. The Sicilienne,introduction to the fountain scene of Act 2, is the one part of the suiteFaure composed some years earlier and scored himself for sextet. Finally, Lamort de Melisande (The Death of Melisande) is an intense parallel to theheroine's music in the Prelude, portraying her Act 5 death scene.
The Pavane was orchestrated at alater date and the original version for piano of this well-known piece showsthat the simple archaic melody should be played at a faster speed than is thecase with the orchestral or choral versions.
The four Valses-caprices are not acycle. The two earlier pieces were written in the early 1880s, the later pair adecade later. Although Saint-Sa?½ns enjoyed Opp. 30 and 38. theirindebtedness to Chopin and their attempt at capriciousness does not suitFaure's introverted nature. The later pieces are more successful and. despiteretaining traces of the virtuoso style, are more introspective, nearer to thetrue nature of the composer. The Mazurka hints again at a tribute toChopin, but shows no debts to Polish folk rhythms. Similar in style to the ValsesCaprices, it has a haunting central slow section.
Pierre-Alain Volondat was born in 1962 atVouzon, Loire-et-Cher. He studied at the Orleans Conservatoire and then at theConservatoire National superieur de Musique in Paris, where he won first prizesin harmony, chamber music and piano. In 1984, at the age of twenty, he won theFirst Grand Prix, the Queen Fabiola Prize and the Audience Prize at the QueenElizabeth of the Belgians Competition and since then has enjoyed a career thathas taken him to success in most countries of Europe as well as in the FarEast. In technique and musical understanding, Pierre-Alain Volondatacknowledges a debt to Vera Moore, continuing the tradition of Clara Schumann.
His wide repertoire extends from Bach to Xenakis and he is also a composer.