Music Gabriel Fauré
Erick Arenas
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 January 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0024


Gabriel Fauré (b. 1845–d. 1924) was arguably the most influential French composer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in Parmiers, he went to Paris at the age of nine with a scholarship from his local bishop to study at the École de Musique Classique et Religieuse, recently established by Louis Niedermeyer. The school’s focus on church music, especially chant, polyphony, and organ, made a profound impact on his career and style. Studies with Camille Saint-Saëns, who became piano instructor there in 1861, expanded his purview to include the music of contemporary composers such as Schumann and Liszt. After completing his studies in 1866, Fauré was appointed as an organist in Rennes. Not suited to its provincial environment, after four years he returned to Paris, where he would spend much of the 1870s as a church musician. During the years 1870–1871, however, he served in the Franco-Prussian War and then joined the displaced École Niedermeyer in Switzerland to teach composition. After resettling in Paris he became choir organist at Saint-Sulpice, under Charles-Marie Widor, then deputy organist to Saint-Saëns at the Madeleine in 1874, where he became choirmaster in 1877. The late 1870s saw the composition of Fauré’s first major works, including the First Violin Sonata, Op. 13, as well as travels that brought him in contact with Liszt and exposed him to Wagner’s operas. He married in 1883 and continued to work at the Madeleine and teach piano and harmony in order to support his young family. Though this left limited time for composition, during the 1880s he produced several piano and vocal works as well as his first stage works. Much of his celebrated Requiem, Op. 48, was also composed toward the end of these years. In the 1890s Fauré’s career advanced significantly. He became organist of the Madeleine and succeeded Massenet as composition instructor at the Paris Conservatoire, where his students would include Ravel, Koechlin, and Nadia Boulanger. His renowned song cycle La bonne chanson, Op. 61, to poems by Verlaine, was composed amidst an increase in his productivity during these years. Though slow to achieve fame, Fauré’s prominence in Parisian culture and influence as a teacher solidified his reputation by the early 1900s and culminated with his appointment as director of the Conservatoire in 1905. After five years of intermittent work, his innovative lyric drama Pénélope premiered in Paris to critical acclaim in 1913. Despite increasing deafness and the difficulties of World War I, the last decade of Fauré’s life was among his most productive, yielding some of his most innovative chamber and vocal music, including the ethereal String Quartet, Op. 121. He died in Paris in 1924 after two years of declining health. Scholars view Fauré’s distinctive musical style, which synthesizes Romantic conventions and the rapidly changing expressive language of his age, usually in smaller forms, as uniquely independent and difficult to classify, yet quintessentially French.

Catalogues and Indexes

The principal index for Fauré research is Phillips 2011. Additionally, the articles on Fauré in the most recent versions of Grove Music Online and Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, cited under Encyclopedia Articles, provide detailed works lists and bibliographies. With its useful catalogue and bibliography, Jost 1996 offers a compact reference for basic research, while Nectoux 1979 is a central resource for the study of historic recordings of Fauré’s music.

  • Jost, Peter, ed. Gabriel Fauré: Werk und Rezeption. Kassel, Germany: Bärenreiter, 1996.

    A collection of essays on the composer and his music (see the record for this item in the RILM database to obtain citations of constituent essays, many with an abstract in English). It includes a detailed catalogue of works and a substantial bibliography.

  • Nectoux, Jean-Michel. Gabriel Fauré: 1900–1977. Phonographies 1. Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale, 1979.

    A detailed index to recordings of Fauré’s music to 1977. It provides location and condition information for rare items, and includes title and performer indexes.

  • Phillips, Edward R. Gabriel Fauré: A Research and Information Guide. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2011.

    The central reference work on Fauré and his music. It is a comprehensive, annotated bibliography of literature related to the composer and his oeuvre, with a detailed works list and inventory of primary sources. Useful appendices on special literature categories and a selected discography are also included.

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