Gabriel Faure

Gabriel Faure

Gabriel Urbain Faure was a highly influential French Composer and Pianist. It is generally said that Gabriel Faure is to the French Art Song what Franz Schubert is to the German Lieder.

Gabriel Faure was born in Pamiers, France on May 12, 1845. When Faure was about five years old, he would occasionally visit the local school chapel and delve into the harmonium there. He is reported to have said “I played atrociously; no method at all, quite without technique, but I do remember that I was happy”. Faure’s experimentation on the harmonium was noticed by a blind woman, who hurriedly told Faure’s father of his gift in music. Faure was also praised by Simon-Lucien Dufaur de Saubiac, who was a member of the national assembly. Upon Simon’s recommendation, Faure’s father agreed to take the young Faure to Louis Niedermeyer’s institute of music, which was then named Ecole de Musique Classique et Religieuse. There, Faure studied for an eleven year period. He studied harmony with Louis Dietsch, counterpoint with Xavier Wackenthaler, and composition and piano with Louis Niedermeyer himself. However, upon Niedermeyer’s death in 1861, Faure was tutored by Camille Saint-Saëns, an organist whom Franz Liszt had once called “The Greatest Organist in the World”. Saint-Saens introduced the young Faure to the works of musical legends, including Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann and Richard Wagner.  During his time at the school, Faure won plenty of awards for composition and performance. This included the ‘premier prix’ (first prize) award for his composition “Cantique de Jean Racine”. Faure graduated from the institute in 1865 with a “Maitre de Chapelle” (Choirmaster) diploma.

Faure served as an organist for the Church of Saint-Sauveur at Renne from 1866 to 1870. He was asked to resign from there after several incidents of ‘religious misconduct’. He then served a very short term at the Church of Notre Dame de Clignancourt, after which he volunteered for military service after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Faure then relocated to Switzerland, which was coincidentally also housing the Ecole Niedermeyer (Niedermeyer’s Institute) temporarily to avoid the war in France. Faure taught his future lifelong companion, André Messager, at the institute. Messager went on to write more than thirty highly successful operettas. During this period, Faure also composed “L’Absent, Seule!” and “La Chanson du pencheur”.

Faure was also one of the founding members of the Societe Nationale de Musique; a society which aimed to mentor future French composers and to promote their music. He chaired the society with Romain Bussine and Saint-Saëns and the society went on the promote the music of many would-be and established musicians, including Georges Bizet, Emmanuel Chabrier, Jules Massenet and Henri Duparc. Faure was also appointed as the head of the famous Paris Conservatoire in 1905.

Faure’s music hinted influence from esteemed composers such as Frederic Chopin, Mozart, and Robert Schumann. Much of Faure’s success as a composer came from his wondrous ability to compose French Art Song; an ability that helped him earn the title of the savior of the genre, which was fast losing popularity to the German Lied. Faure’s most known art songs include “Apres un reve” and “Clair de lune”. Faure’s piano works were also largely famous, these included “Pavane”, “Nocturnes”, and “Requiem”.

In 1920, he received the Grand-Croix of the Legion of Honor. Gabriel Faure died on November 4, 1924 due to pneumonia.