Gabriel Fauré, Piano Quartet No. 2 in g minor, Op. 45

October 27, 2017

Gabriel FauréGabriel Fauré (1845-1924) was born in the village of Pamiers, Ariège, Midi-Pyrénées. At an early age he was sent to study at the famous École Niedermeyer, a Parisian school which prepared church organists and choir directors. He studied with several prominent French musicians, including Charles Lefèvre and Camille Saint-Saëns. For most of his life, Fauré worked as a church organist and teacher. Among his students were Maurice Ravel and Nadia Boulanger. He was a founder of the the Société Nationale de Musique and eventually became director of the Paris Conservatory. In retrospect, he has come to be regarded as a transitional and unique figure in French music. His lifetime and works spanned the period of the mid Romantic right up to the modern post-WWI developments of Stravinsky. He and his music were well-known during his lifetime and several of his works are still popular today such as his Requiem, the opera Pénélope, the music for Pelléas et Mélisande and the Dolly Suite. He wrote a considerable amount of chamber music; including two piano quartets, two piano quintets, two cello sonatas, two violin sonatas, a string quartet, and a piano trio.

Faure’s Second Piano Quartet was completed in 1887. It is his only major work that experiments with cyclic form, an approach that was quite popular in France thanks to the influence of César Franck and Franz Liszt. The first movement, Allegro molto moderato, opens with a long and flowing unison string melody. The viola introduces the secondary theme, which is closely related to the first subject. The second movement, Allegro molto, begins in turbulent fashion with a breathless, syncopated theme in the piano. What appears to be a lyrical contrasting theme in the strings is another version of material from the beginning of the first movement; at the same time it is related to the scale passage of the scherzo theme. Fauré wrote that the third movement, Adagio non troppo, grew out of his memories of the sounds of bells heard years before in the garden of his family’s home in Cadirac. The finale, Allegro molto, is full of energy, passion, and turbulence. Its theme of surging triplets has a relentless forward drive. Later, contrasting ideas recall themes originally heard in the scherzo and the first movement.

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