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Gabriel Fauré, one of the greatest French composers.

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) is now acknowledged as one of the greatest of French composers. His influence on composition during the first half of the twentieth century is undoubted. His modal influence is to be found in works by Ravel, Koechlin, Enesco, Roger-Ducasse and Schmitt, all of whom studied with him, and even in Stravinsky (The Firebird, Petrushka).

Dolly is a piano suite. Written between 1893 and 1896 for four hands, it is in six short movements, which could be described as ‘miniatures’. It was written for Dolly Bardac (the young daughter of Emma Bardac, who later became Madame Debussy).

The gentleness of Berceuse, a lullaby, is underlined by the delicate ostinato of the accompanying rhythm. Mi-a-ou, spontaneous and youthful, evokes feline grace and the mischievousness of a child playing with a cat. Le jardin de Dolly has a moving, elegiac quality. ‘Dolly's garden’ is wonderful place – a place of dreams and secrets, in which the melody unfolds with simplicity. The light spinning of Kitty-Valse reminds us of Fauré's earlier Valses-caprices, and Tendresse, ‘Tenderness’, the richest of the six movements, shows Fauré at his very best: this is pure music! Finally, Le pas espagnol (‘The Spanish step’, as in a dance), alternating lyricism and passion, is typically Spanish in mood.

The very enjoyable FirstPiano Quartet, written in 1879, reveals Fauré's debt to an earlier generation of composers, Mendelssohn in particular; but already it shows the elegance and craftsmanship, and the refined sensuality that are his hallmark. There is much fullness and eloquence in this work, which is one of the masterpieces of the composer's youth.

In the Allegro molto moderato the first theme is launched very assertively by the strings in unison over impetuous chords from the piano, while the second theme is expressive and bright. The Scherzo, Allegro vivo, a beautiful movement,has all the lightness, spontaneity, sensitivity and subtlety that are the essential ingredients of a perfect scherzo. The following Adagio is poignant and tender throughout. After the statement of the first theme, moving and sorrowful, and the second theme, more serene and lyrical, the piece adopts an unchanging motion, like a nocturne. This movement expresses despair yet hope. The Allegro molto is one of Fauré's most beautiful final movements. It consists of three elements, one rhythmic, another melodic, while a third, shorter element inserts itself between them (bar 39) and is used by the composer to accentuate and contrast the expressive interventions of the piano. Here, as in all the other movements, Fauré achieves an impressive fusion of strings and piano.

From Louis Martini

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