Gabriel Fauré, 2 Mélodies transcribed for piano quartet

November 1, 2020

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

Les berceaux, Op. 23, No. 1 (1879)
Notre amour, Op. 23, No. 2 (c.1879)

Gabriel Fauré Gabriel Fauré is especially celebrated for his contributions to French “art song” known specifically by the word mélodie, essentially the French equivalent to the German Lied. The history of French song is, naturally, long, rich and complex, but the undisputed masters of the late Romantic and early modern French mélodie are Fauré, Henri Duparc and Claude Debussy during the a period that precisely corresponds with late 19th Century flowering of French instrumental chamber music, really two side of the same coin. With his gifts for melody, exquisite pianism, harmonic color and textural clarity particularly within an intimate ensemble, Fauré was perfectly suited to write music for voice and piano. Between 1861 and 1921, from the age of 16 to 76, Fauré composed over 100 mélodies, often grouped into sets and, in the latter period, thematically interrelated into remarkably innovative song cycles.

The two songs on the program, transcribed for piano quartet (without voice), come from a set of three songs published in 1881 and 1882 as his op. 23. Fauré composed the first two songs in or around 1879, the very year he finished his first piano quartet making for a wonderfully focused salon of Fauré’s music capturing his first flush of fame in his early thirties. The two songs also present a perfect contrast of topic, sentiment and corresponding musical expression, a revealing yin and yang of Fauré’s art song.

Les berceaux (Cradles), written to a text by French poet and Nobel laureate Sully Prudhomme compares a mother’s gentle rocking of a child’s cradle to the watery rocking of the harbor-bound wooden ships that will eventually steal the child away as it grows into a young man driven by wanderlust to take to the sea. The undulating piano figurations gently rock beneath a slowly moving sorrowful melody in a three-part musical narrative. In vivid contrast, Notre amour (Our Love), to a text by the French Parnassian poet Paul-Armand Silvestre, is a bright, joyful and lively patter song in five verses extolling the five qualities their love: light, charming, sacred, infinite and eternal. Each stanza features unique changes and embellishments of melody, harmony, texture and figuration creating a light, fluffy and particularly delicious musical ambrosia.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.