A few words about Gabriel Fauré
Studies and beginning
Gabriel Fauré is a French pianist, organist and composer. He was born on May 12, 1845 in Pamiers (France), from his father Toussaint-Honoré Fauré (1810-1885), a teacher, and Marie-Antoinette-Hélène Lalène-Laprade (1809-1887), mother of a large family of 6 children. Gabriel, the youngest of the siblings, leaves their family home in Foix at the age of 9 in 1954 to join the École de musique classique et religieuse de Paris, also known as the École Niedermeyer. .
He studied there for eleven years, where he met many well-known musicians, including piano teacher Camille Saint-Saëns, who introduced him to the music of great composers: Robert Schumann, Frédéric Chopin,Franz Liszt. He also met the director, Gustave Lefèvre, with whom he learned composition.
In this school he composed about twenty of his famous melodies and even tried his hand at religious music, including his famous Cantique de Jean Racine (1864 : listen), for mixed four-voice choir, strings and organ, at the age of only 19.
In 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War in which he took part, Fauré was appointed titular organist in Paris at Saint-Honoré-d’Eylau and then at Saint-Sulpice until 1874. He completed his Sonata for violin and piano No. 1 op. 13 the following year, as well as his first Nocturne for piano (op. 33 No. 1), which seemed very daring for the time.
In 1878-1879, he went to Germany where he had the chance to meet Liszt and listen to the works of Richard Wagner. The composer married Marie Fremiet in 1883. Daughter of the sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet, Marie and Gabriel will have two sons together. Despite this, Fauré falls into depression. At this time he experiences a real lack of musical recognition, especially since his music earns him very little because his publisher, having all the rights, sells his scores for only 50 francs each.
“To me, art and music consist in elevating ourselves and distancing ourselves as far as possible from what exists.”
Luck finally comes to Fauré
In the 1890s, luck finally smiled on the composer. In 1892, he was appointed Inspector of Teaching for French conservatories and then professor of composition.
At the age of 51, he replaced Jules Massenet as professor of composition at the Conservatoire. Without knowing it at the time, he had the honour of teaching great names such as Maurice Ravel, Georges Enesco and Nadia Boulanger.
In 1905 he was appointed director of the Conservatory, despite his deafness which had appeared a few years earlier. Regarded as a discreet and modest man, he nevertheless managed with authority to renovate the prestigious institution.
“Will the gruesome tempest in which we find ourselves save us by giving us back our common sense, that is to say our ability to think clearly, our taste of sobriety and purity in form, our contempt of thick gesture?”
Between 1907 and 1913, Fauré began composing an opera: Pénélope. This project was not a great success and left him, in his own words, “flattened with fatigue”. He ended his life composing mainly chamber music. A few days before his death, he finished his 4-string quartet, which some see as a decline due to his deafness and others as the brilliant culmination of a musical quest that owes nothing to the evolutions of his time.
He died of pneumonia on 4 November 1924 and a state funeral was held in his memory at the Madeleine church before being buried in the Passy cemetery in Paris.