©2002 by Fred Flaxman

Program 10
"Fauré's Fiascoes"

MUSIC: Fauré: Élégy, Op. 24 [Bridge BCD 9038, track 3]

FLAXMAN: The music in the background is by the French composer, Gabriel Fauré. It is his Élégy for cello and piano, and it is just one of the gorgeous melodies of Fauré we'll be hearing on this hour of Compact Discoveries. Welcome to the program, which I call "Fauré's Fiascoes." I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman.

MUSIC: [above fades out]

MUSIC: Fauré plays his own Barcarolle No. 1 in A Minor [heard under the following]

FLAXMAN: My colleague Mary Jane Phillips and I used to drive to work together every day. We would talk and listen to classical music on the radio, and the trip would pass quickly and enjoyably, despite the rush-hour traffic.

In the middle of our conversation one morning the radio station started to play the Barcarolle No. 1 by Gabriel Fauré. Since we were talking when the announcer introduced the short piano piece, I didn't catch who the performer was.

"Mary Jane," I said, interrupting her at the end of a sentence. "Listen to this piece. It is a beautiful little gem that almost no one knows. I happen to have a recording of it."

We listened and, to my surprise and disappointment, it was performed so badly, I thought it was being ruined.

MUSIC: We hear Fauré's performance without talking over it. Then it concludes under the following.

FLAXMAN: "Oh, Mary Jane," I said over the music. "I'm sorry, but this pianist hasn't the foggiest notion of how to play this piece!"

As soon as the words left my mouth I realized that I was certain to regret the comment. The pianist was sure to be Arthur Rubinstein or Vladimir Horowitz or someone like that. But I had no idea how embarrassing the remark would turn out to be, until the piece finished and the announcer came back on the air.

MUSIC: Fauré's performance of his Barcarolle No. 1 finishes.

ANNOUNCER [Rick Wiseman, using his lowest tones and an exaggerated formal style]: "You have just heard Gabriel Fauré's Barcarolle No. 1 in A Minor, Opus 26, as performed by [pause] the composer."

FLAXMAN: "Well, Mary Jane, it just goes to show you that the composer isn't necessarily the best interpreter of his own work!"

I have a compact disc recording of the 13 Barcarolles performed by Jean-Philippe Collard, and the No. 1 in A Minor remains my favorite. Collard's interpretation is much closer to my taste than Fauré's.

MUSIC: Fauré's Barcarolle No. 1 in A Minor performed by Jean-Philippe Collard [EMI 1113282, track 1] [4:27]

FLAXMAN: Gabriel Fauré's Barcarolle No. 1 in A Minor was performed by Jean-Philippe Collard on an EMI compact disc.

I think Fauré was a top-notch composer. Well, maybe a second-notch composer who wrote some top-notch pieces. We're going to spend the rest of this hour listening to some of these gems, and hearing more about Fauré's fiascos, which had nothing to do with his piano playing or his composing, and everything to do with his love life.

First, some more of his incredibly beautiful music. Let's start with the Sicilienne, Op. 78, from "Pelléas et Mélisande." In this Argo recording, Neville Marriner conducts the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

MUSIC: Fauré's Sicilienne, Op. 78, from "Pelléas et Mélisande." [Argo 410 552-2, track 3] [3:52]

FLAXMAN: The Sicilienne, Op. 78, from "Pelléas et Mélisande" by Gabriel Fauré. Neville Marriner conducted the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

We are featuring the melodious music of Fauré on today's edition of Compact Discoveries.

MUSIC: Fauré: Libera me, final moments with chorus, from Requiem, Op. 48 [Philips 412 743-2, track 6] under the following:

Fauré was born in Pamiers, France, in 1845. He died in Paris in 1924. He trained as an organist and choirmaster, and worked as a church musician first in Rennes, then at St. Sulpice and the Madeleine in Paris. He also gave private lessons. He had to compose his piano pieces and songs during his summer holidays. His music was considered very modern at the time, and he was slow to receive recognition as a composer.

In 1892 he became national inspector of the provincial conservatories, and in 1896 chief organist at the Madeleine and composition professor at the Paris Conservatoire, where his pupils included Ravel, Enescu and Nadia Boulanger. From 1905 to 1920 he was the Conservatoire's director, becoming well-known for the vocal and chamber works he produced until his death. The most famous of these is his Requiem, which is still performed and recorded very often to this day.

MUSIC: fades out

FLAXMAN: Fauré's music was full of beautiful harmonies. His love life, however, wasn't nearly as harmonious. In fact it was full of fiascos. It all started when, in his early 30s, he fell for a woman named Marianne Viardot and asked her to marry him. Like many other women, she found Fauré attractive and intelligent. But she couldn't make up her mind. This uncertainty dragged on for months until they became engaged and a date was set for the wedding. But Marianne postponed the date, and the continued delay was more than Fauré could handle. Marianne then broke off their engagement for good. Fauré was devastated. Several melancholy works resulted from his emotional pain and suffering, including his Elégie for cello and piano, which begins as a funeral march.

MUSIC: Fauré's Elégie, Op. 24 [Bridge BCD 9038] [6:46]

FLAXMAN: Fauré's Elégie, Op. 24 , for cello and piano. Steven Doane was the cellist; Barry Snyder, the pianist, in this Bridge compact Disc recording.

Fauré had no intention of remaining a bachelor, and he agreed to an arranged marriage. A friend found three potential brides, all of whom belonged to the artistic world: the daughters of two famous writers and of a well-known sculptor. The composer couldn't make up his mind, so he wrote the names down on slips of paper, placed them in a hat, and randomly picked Marie Fremiet, daughter of the sculptor.

The couple had two sons together, but, in all other respects, the marriage didn't work out very well. Marie disliked the active social life that Fauré thrived on. She almost always refused to go with him to operas or concerts and would conveniently "forget" to do the laundry just to prevent him from going out at night. Gradually, a wall of silence grew between them and they saw less and less of each other. After the turn of the century they corresponded by letter even when they were both in Paris.

MUSIC: Berceuse from the Dolly Suite, Op. 56, by Fauré [EMI Classics CDZ 7243 5 72526 2 1] under the following:

FLAXMAN: While on family holidays at the Fremiet summer house in the 1890s, Fauré had a passionate affair with Emma Bardac, a neighbor of the Fremiets. Emma was married to a banker but led a very independent life. She was witty, elegant, and could sight-read very well in her beautiful soprano voice. She was everything that Fauré's wife was not.

On June 20th, 1892, Emma had a daughter named Hélène who was nicknamed "Dolly" because she was so petite. There had been rumors that the child belonged to Fauré, but since their affair began in the summer of 1892, this is unlikely.

In any case, Fauré wrote pieces for two pianos which he gave as presents to Dolly. They eventually became the Dolly Suite.

Over the next decade, the affair between Emma Bardac and Gabriel Fauré cooled and they went their separate ways. Later, Emma's husband gave her a divorce so that she could marry the last love of her life, a chap by the name of Claude Debussy.

MUSIC: fades out

MUSIC: Pavane, Op. 50 [Argo 410 5552-2, track 5] [5:41]

FLAXMAN: That was Gabriel Fauré's Pavane, Op. 50, performed by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields conducted by Neville Marriner.

You are listening to Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break]

FLAXMAN: I am devoting this program to the music and loves of Gabriel Fauré, and I have one other love to report in this regard. In 1900 Fauré met and fell for a woman who was young enough to be his daughter. Nevertheless, they stayed together until the end of his life in 1924. It was like a second marriage, but the social morality of the day kept Fauré from divorcing his wife.

Now that we have dispensed with Fauré's love life, we have time for one of my very favorite pieces of chamber music: Fauré's Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, Opus 13. Fauré is perhaps not as well known as he would have been had he composed symphonies and concertos. But he excelled at chamber music, and this sonata will prove my point. We hear it now as performed by violinist Shlomo Mintz and pianist Yefim Bronfman on a Deutsche Grammophon compact disc.

MUSIC: Fauré: Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, Op. 13 [Deutsche Grammophon 423 065-2, tracks 1 -4] [26:54]

FLAXMAN: Shlomo Mintz was the violinist and Yefim Bronfman the pianist in the Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, Opus 13, by Gabriel Fauré. And that marvelous piece of chamber music brings to an end our Compact Discoveries program devoted to the great music and great loves of Gabriel Fauré. Fortunately for us, his music was much more successful than his marriage. Which just goes to prove, I suppose, that it is better to arrange music than marriages.

MUSIC: Fauré: Le Pas espagnol from Dolly Suite, Op. 56 [EMI Classics 7243 5 72526-2, track 18 [under the following]

FLAXMAN: Compact Discoveries is made possible by the members of WXEL-FM and the financial support of Barry and Florence Friedberg, Maurice and Thelma Steingold and an anonymous donor. The program was written, produced, recorded, and edited by your guide, Fred Flaxman, and is a production of WXEL-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida.

MUSIC: fades out completely at 58:00


MUSIC: "Lone Ranger" theme from The William Tell Overture by Rossini

FLAXMAN: Return to the musical yesteryears of radio next time on Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman. Please join me for my light approach to serious music.

MUSIC: Down and Under

TAG: Sunday at 7 P.M. on WXEL-FM 90.7

MUSIC: Fades out at 30 seconds

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