Gabriel Faure(1845 - 1924)
BarcarolleNo.1 in A minor, Op. 26
BarcarolleNo.2 in G major, Op. 41
BarcarolleNo.3 in G flat major, Op. 42
BarcarolleNo.4 in A flat major, Op. 44
BarcarolleNo.5 in F sharp minor, Op. 66
BarcarolleNo.6 in E flat major, Op. 70
BarcarolleNo.7 in D minor, Op. 90
BarcarolleNo.8 in D flat major, Op. 96
BarcarolleNo.9 in A minor, Op. 101
BarcarolleNo.10 in A minor, Op. 104, No.2
BarcarolleNo.11 in G minor, Op. 105
BarcarolleNo.12 in E flat major, Op. 106bis
BarcarolleNo.13 in C major, Op. 116
Ballade in Fsharp major, Op. 19 (Original version for piano solo)
The sixth andyoungest child of a father with some aristocratic connections, a formerteacher, employed in the educational inspectorate and then as director of ateachers' training college, Gabriel Faure was encouraged by his family in hisearly musical ambitions. His professional training, designed to allow him acareer as a choirrnaster, was at the Ecole Niedermeyer in Paris, where, by goodfortune, he met Saint-Saens, who taught the piano at the school. This was thebeginning of a relationship that lasted until the death of Saint-Saens in 1921.
Faurecompleted his studies at the Ecole Niedermeyer in 1865 and the following yeartook up an appointment as organist at the church of St Sauveur in Rennes, turning hisattention increasingly, during four years of this provincial exile, tocomposition. After similar less important appointments in Paris, in 1871 hebecame assistant organist at St Sulpice, later moving to the Madeleine asdeputy to Saint-Saens and subsequently as choirmaster, when Theodore Duboissucceeded Saint-Saens in 1877. Marriage in 1883 and the birth of two sonsbrought financial responsibilities that Faure met by his continued employmentat the Madeleine and by teaching. At the same time he wrote a large number ofsongs, while remaining, as always, intensely critical of his own work,particularly with regard to compositions on a larger scale.
The lastdecade of the nineteenth century brought Faure more public recognition. In 1892he became inspector of French provincial conservatories and four years laterprincipal organist at the Madeleine, in the same year finding, at last,employment as teacher of composition at the Conservatoire, the way now open tohim after the death of the old director Ambroise Thomas, who had found Fauretoo much of a modernist for such a position. His association with theConservatoire, where his pupils over the years included Ravel, Charles Koechlin,Georges Enescu and Nadia Boulanger, led, in 1905, to his appointment asdirector, in the aftermath of the scandal that had denied the Prix de Rome toRavel. He remained in this position until 1920, his time for compositioninitially limited by administrative responsibilities, although he was laterable to devote himself more fully to this, adding yet again to the repertoireof French song, with chamber music and works for piano. His musical languagebridged a gap between the romanticism of the nineteenth century and the worldof music that had appeared with the new century, developing and evolving, butretaining its own fundamental characteristics. Faure's harmonic idiom with itssubtle changes of tonality and his gift for melody, combine with an understandingof the way contemporary innovations might be used in a manner completely hisown. His contribution to French music as a composer must lie chiefly in hissongs, his piano music and his chamber music, although works like the poignant Requiemhave an unassailable place in liturgical and choral repertoire.
The Frenchword Barcarolle is adapted from the Italian barcarole, the songssung by the gondoliers of Venice, a popular object forcollection by visitors to the place as part of the fashionable eighteenthcentury Grand Tour. Its principal musical characteristic lay in its rockingrhythm, generally 6/8, reflected in songs of an aquatic nature by Schubert, notleast in his setting of his friend Mayrhofer's poem Der Gondelfahrer, andin the famous Venetian barcarolle in Offenbach's Tales of Hoftmann.
The form appears in piano music notably in Chopin's single Barcarolle andin three of Mendelssohn's Songs without Words. Other examples occur inpiano music, particularly from the later nineteenth century Russian composers,but it is to Faure that the barcarolle owes its most significant treatment, itsapotheosis.
Faure washimself a pianist and the piano was his favourite instrument. In his primaryvocation as a composer, he wrote music first at his desk, although all hismusic for the piano is essentially in a pianistic idiom that suited, at least,his own very personal piano technique, something that is not necessarily thecase with the music of those who choose to compose at the keyboard. The firstof his Barcarolles, the Barcarolle in A minor, tentatively datedto 1880 or 1881, was first performed by Saint-Saens at a concert of the societeNationale de Musique, an important association formed in 1871 by Faure,together with Vincent d'Indy, Lalo, Duparc and Chabrier. The delicatelyconceived piece, with its gently swaying rhythm, was dedicated to the pianistCaroline de Serres, Mme Montigny-Remaury.
BarcarolleNo.2 in Gmajor, Op. 41, a more extended work, with its excursions into 9/8from the opening 6/8, was written in 1885, as was Barcarolle No.3 in G
flat major, Op. 42. The first was dedicated to the pianist Marie Poitevin,to whom Cesar Franck dedicated his Prelude, choral et fugue, and thesecond, with its acknowledgement of Chopin's figuration, to Henriette Roger-Jourdain,wife of Faure's friend, the painter Roger Jourdain. The following year brought BarcarolleNo.4 in A flat major, Op. 44, in which Faure again recalls Chopin in pianotexture and figuration. This last was dedicated to the wife of Ernest Chausson.
Barcarolle No.5 in F sharp minor, Op. 66, was written in 1894, ata time when he had begun to win a more significant measure of success and tomaster the feelings of depression he had sometimes entertained in the previousdecade. 1894 had brought the completion of La bonne chanson, settings ofVerlaine dedicated to Emma Bardac, Debussy's future second wife, after thewonderful Venice songs, the Cinqmelodies, Verlaine settings that he had dedicated to Princess Edmond de Polignac,the American sewing-machine heiress, Winnie Singer. The Barcarolle, withits characteristic shifts of harmony, was dedicated to the wife of Vincent d'Indy.
This work was followed, in 1895 or 1896, by the masterly Barcarolle No.6 in E<