Fauré’s “Pelléas et Mélisande” Suite: Incidental Music for a Symbolist Play

Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1898 French symbolist play, Pelléas and Mélisande, centers around a doomed love triangle. Set in an ancient ruined castle and a dense forest, it “expresses a sense that human beings understand neither themselves nor each other nor the world.” (Bettina Knapp) Joan Pataky Kosove writes, Pelléas et Mélisande tells the story of a young and beautiful girl who marries one man, falls in love with another, and dies. But the play …

Read more

Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in C Minor: Color and Motion

Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 15 inhabits a magical world of shimmering colors and buoyant, effortless motion. Amid the emotional excesses of nineteenth century Romanticism, this is music made up of pristine lines and classical elegance. It unfolds with a sublime simplicity and directness. Its expression arises from a kind of emotional detachment. Set in the sunniest and most blissful C minor imaginable, undercurrents of quiet lament …

Read more

Fauré’s Berceuse, Op. 16: Christian Ferras

A berceuse is a “cradle song,” set in a gently rocking 6/8 meter. Gabriel Fauré composed the beautiful and fleeting Berceuse, Op. 16 for violin and piano about 1879. This remastered performance by the French violinist Christian Ferras and pianist Ernest Lush was released in 1951. Born in 1933, Christian Ferras was one of the greatest exponents of the elegant, sonically colorful Franco-Belgian school of violin playing. Illness led to his early and tragic death in …

Read more

“Le Secret”: Fauré’s Mystical Art Song

Throughout Gabriel Fauré’s 1879 song, Le Secret, serene, hypnotically repeating chords in the piano toll like an immortal bell. We drift into a detached dreamscape which seems to anticipate the final, time-altering movement of Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time.  The song’s text is a setting of Paul-Armand Silvestre’s poem, Mystère, from the collection, Le pays des roses (1882). Its three stanzas blur the lines between dawn, day, and night. A sense of transcendental mystery is …

Read more

Fauré and Debussy: Two Charming Settings of Paul Verlaine’s “Mandoline”

Gabriel Fauré’s 1891 song cycle, Cinq mélodies “de Venise”, Op. 58, begins with music which is as charming and infectious as it is brief. Mandoline is a setting of a poem from the 1869 collection, Fêtes galantes, by the French Symbolist, Paul Verlaine. The poem was inspired by a series of paintings by Jean-Antoine Watteau depicting (as Robert Gartside writes) “18th century nobility in their fêtes champètres, those elegant picnics redolent of a mixture of gaiety, …

Read more

Fauré’s Second Piano Quintet: “Youth and Serenity”

The Piano Quintet No. 2 in C minor, Op. 115 was one of Gabriel Fauré’s final pieces. Completed in 1921, three years before the composer’s death, it retreats into the lengthening shadows of late afternoon. It’s filled with the subtle and inexplicable sense of mystery and revelation we hear often in the late works of the most canonical composers. Dedicated to Paul Dukas, it was written in secret, seemingly for posterity, at a …

Read more

Fauré’s “Ballade in F-Sharp Major”: Bending Harmony

Gabriel Fauré’s Ballade in F-sharp Major, Op. 19 is filled with harmony-bending moments. For example, listen to the opening of the piece. The first phrase follows a graceful and beautifully consonant arc. Then at the 0:26 mark, we get a sudden, wrenching dissonance. Floating over a serene, hypnotically repeating rhythmic line, this music doesn’t seem far off from Erik Satie’s dreamy Gymnopédies, published ten years later in 1888, or the second movement of …

Read more

Send this to a friend