He may not get top billing at LACO’s ravel & beethoven concert this weekend – that honor, oddly enough, goes to Ravel and Beethoven – but Gabriel Fauré will still be an integral part of the program, with his Pavane, Op. 50 kicking off an evening of beautiful music. (Get your tickets here!) While Fauré (1845-1924) may not be a household name, he’s considered a highly influential French composer, and an important bridge between the music of the 19th and 20th centuries. Here are five more facts about George Fauré to whet your appetite before the concert this weekend:
1) He Wasn’t A Child Prodigy. Fauré was born in a small village in southern France, into a family that wasn’t very musical. He loved music from a very early age, although he admits that, at the beginning, he wasn’t very talented: “I grew up, a rather quiet, well-behaved child, in an area of great beauty. But the only thing I remember really clearly is the harmonium in that little chapel. Every time I could get away I ran there…I played atrociously…but I do remember that I was happy.”
2) How Organists Cut Loose. Fauré spent decades working at churches as an organist or choirmaster, and supplementing his income by giving piano lessons. In 1871, he was working at the Église Saint-Sulpice in Paris, alongside organist Charles-Marie Widor. Fauré and Widor would occasionally have some fun during the services – they would simultaneously improvise, each playing one of the church’s two organs, and try to throw each other off by suddenly changing keys.
3) He Only Composed For A Few Months A Year. Because of the weekly demands of his church work and private students, Fauré didn’t have the time to work on his own compositions. So he composed during this summer breaks. The one opera he wrote, called “Pénélope,” took him five summers.
4) Fidelity Wasn’t a Strong Suit. Fauré was married to Marie Fremiet, and they had two sons. But the marriage was strained, and he and Marie had different interests. They grew apart over time, eventually communicating only by mail. Fauré had a succession of mistresses, including Emma Bardac (who, at the time, was married to a banker; she would later marry Claude Debussy). Fauré’s well-known Dolly Suite for two pianos was dedicated to Bardac’s young daughter, leading some to believe that Faure was actually the girl’s father.
5) A Famous Teacher and a Famous Student. Fauré studied under Camille Saint-Saëns as a teenager, and considered him to be a lifelong friend and mentor. One of Fauré’s students in the early 1890s was another man who became a famous composer: Maurice Ravel.