Gabriel Fauré

Gabriel Fauré (1845 - 1924) may be a contemporary of Tchaikovsky and Dvořák, but his life span extends far into the 20th century. Fauré was not educated at the famous Paris Conservatoire, but at an institute of sacred music, where he also acquired an intimate knowledge of Gregorian chant and early sacred music in general, distinguishing him from other French composers of his time. One of his teachers was Camille Saint-Saëns, ten years his senior, who strongly influenced Fauré and with whom he developed a lifelong friendship.

Fauré first made a name for himself as an organist in large Parisian churches, but at the same time, from the mid-1870s onwards, he gradually became increasingly popular as a composer, especially as a composer of songs, chamber music and piano music. However, his ascent to becoming one of the most respected musicians in France proved to be rather slow. Nevertheless, he began teaching at the Paris Conservatoire in 1896. His composition class soon attracted the most notable talents of French music from Maurice Ravel to Nadia Boulanger. But it was not until 1905, when festivals were already being dedicated to Fauré, that he found due recognition and eventually financial stability with an appointment as director of the Conservatoire. Tragically, he began to suffer from progressive hearing loss at the time. Fauré experienced a serious creative crisis, from which he had difficulty extricating himself. However, after composing the 2nd Violin Sonata in E minor, op. 108, in 1916, he entered into a final productive phase, concurrent with the First World War, during which he composed several significant chamber music works. While his earlier works epitomise lyrical refinement, sophistication and balance, these more introspective, austere late works, with their distinctly individual harmonies and contrapuntal play of lines, exhibit a tendency to abstraction.

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