Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924) Sonata in A major Op. 13
With this work of such modest appearance, Mr. Fauré has leapt to the top ranks of the masters in one bound. Thus wrote Camille Saint-Saëns with pride about his pupils work.
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In 1876, ten years before César Francks violin sonata in the same key, Gabriel Fauré made a major contribution to the first flowering of French chamber music with his A-major Sonata op. 13. He even found a publisher for it right away, namely Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig. Both the work and the composer were warmly acclaimed immediately after the publication: This sonata contains everything that appeals to the gourmet: new forms, wonderful modulations, unusual tone colors, unexpected rhythms. The publisher seems to have picked out a true gem from Faurés oeuvre, for the sonata soon became very popular, and in 1889, Breitkopf & Härtel heightened this popularity by releasing an arrangement for violoncello by Carl Hüllweck. It is likely that Fauré not only approved the arrangement, but also proofread it. Long out of print, this edition will once again allow cellists to enjoy Faurés violin sonata in a competent period arrangement.
"Besser als Camille Saint-Saëns, der das Werk 1873 rezensierte und dem sechsundzwanzigjährigen Fauré eine glänzende Zukunft vorhersagte, kann man dem Werk kaum gerecht werden."(ensemble)
The extraordinary musical talent of Gabriel Fauré (born in 1845) began to manifest itself in his childhood and, at the age of nine, the boy was taken by his father to Paris, where he was given a thorough education at Louis Niedermeyer’s École de Musique religieuse et classique. After Niedermeyer’s early death in 1861, Camille Saint-Saëns took over not only the direction of the institute, but also the responsibility for the talented student’s further education. Since his studies were focused on sacred music, the young composer and instrumentalist gravitated towards organists’ posts at major churches, including the “Madeleine” in Paris. Fauré was already experimenting with the “small” form of the song at this time, and his work in this domain culminated in the setting of La bonne Chanson op. 61 on poems by Paul Verlaine (1892–94) for soprano and piano; he also produced a version for soprano, string quartet and piano (1898).
In 1872 Saint-Saëns introduced the young composer to a family that was very influential in musical circles, the Viardots. The celebrated singer, composer and voice teacher Pauline Viardot-Garcia, who was trained as a pianist by Franz Liszt, had been encouraged by her friend George Sand to marry Louis Viardot, 21 years her senior, in 1839. He resigned from his post as director of the Théâtre-Italien in Paris the following year in order to devote himself to his wife’s career as her exclusive impresario. The Viardots had four musically highly talented children. Gabriel Fauré fell in love with Marianne, born in 1854, and courted her for several years. Their engagement was concluded in 1877 but later canceled. On 26 July 1877 Pauline Viardot-Garcia wrote to her friend Clara Schumann (the families were closely connected since before their mutual years in Baden- Baden; this is wonderfully documented in the memoirs of Eugenie Schumann): “Marianne has been engaged for four days. Her betrothed, Gabriel Fauré, is a young musician and composer of great talent. Perhaps you are familiar with his Sonata for Piano and Violin, which caused quite a stir in Paris this winter. He is 31 years old, very kind, intellectual, witty, charming … We’ve known him for five years now. He adores Marianne and she loves him dearly. He is Maître de Chapelle at the Église de la Madeleine, gives some piano lessons, has a very decent post. He has long been a general darling, at our home as well.” (Eugenie Schumann, Erinnerungen, Stuttgart, 1925). Supremely disappointed that Marianne canceled the engagement, Fauré traveled to Weimar, where he met Franz Liszt, and then to Cologne in order to attend a performance of the “Ring des Nibelungen” there. Ivan Turgenev, who was an intimate of the Viardots since 1843, produced a literary treatment of this topic in his novella The Song of Triumphant Love.
After writing her Six Morceaux for piano and violin in 1868, Pauline Viardot-Garcia wrote a very respectable Sonatina in A minor for her son Paul in 1874. It is also at this time that Gabriel Fauré wrote his Sonata in A major op. 13 for violin and piano, which can be seen as the climax of his first creative period, and about which his great mentor Camille Saint-Saëns said that no work published in France or Germany in the past years was as impressive as this one, and none had more charm. Fauré dedicated the sonata to Paul Viardot, the brother of his future fiancée. Viardot later became a remarkable violin virtuoso, music author and composer. Confirming the extraordinarily rapid popularity of the sonata is the fact that Breitkopf published an adaptation for violoncello and piano (plate number 18398) already in 1889. It was edited by the cellist and composer Carl Hüllweck, who no doubt also provided the fingerings. A new printing of this edition was released in 1936 with the publication number Edition Breitkopf 4148, which is reprinted here.
Since there are considerable alterations in the melodic line for the violoncello version through the octave transpositions, we have left the original violin version in the piano part. Not only can interpreters of today check Carl Hüllweck’s editorial work, but they are also recommended to do so. It is likely that the original edition of 1889 was at least overseen by the composer himself, especially since Fauré – following the famous Élégie of 1883, which was conceived as part of a violoncello sonata that was never written – began in 1889 to write a number of works for the cello, an instrument that was steadily gaining in prominence: Petite Pièce op. 49 (1889), Sicilienne op. 78 (1893), Romance op. 69 (1894), Papillon op. 77 (1897), Serenade op. 98 (1908). His cello oeuvre culminated with the two large sonatas of his later years, the Sonata for Violoncello and Piano in D minor op. 109 (1917) and in G minor op. 117 (1921).
One cannot overestimate the importance of Gabriel Fauré on the musical life of his time in France. He not only taught composers such as Maurice Ravel, Charles Koechlin, Alfredo Casella, Florent Schmitt, George Enescu and Nadia Boulanger, but also wrote music reviews for Le Figaro between 1903 and 1921, founded the Société Nationale de Musique and headed the Conservatoire de Musique in Paris from 1905 to 1920.
In the arrangement presented here, the Sonata in A major op. 13 represents a major enrichment of the repertoire for violoncello and piano, and bears eloquent witness to Gabriel Fauré’s early creative phase as well as to his gradual approach to the leading stringed instrument of the 20th century.
In closing, let us quote the review in which Camille Saint-Saëns introduced the work to the public in the Journal de Musique of 7 April 1877:
Those who are less attuned to musical matters generally assume that musical events of note take place on the stage, and that instrumental music has little of interest to offer. Yet it is outside of the theater that the most interesting composition of the season has emerged, a simple and modest sonata for violin and piano.
In literature, there is the Theater and there is the Book, and we keep returning to the latter, no matter how mighty the temptations of the stage may be. In the literature of music, the Book is represented by chamber music and concert music thanks to their particular importance, solidity and permanence. France just began to understand this truth a few years ago. Those who first understood it were accused of falsifying the French spirit, of yielding to Germanophilia and of hating the theater – childish accusations which time will deal with as they deserve.
What is undeniable is that in the near future there will be a repertoire of French instrumental music able to take up arms and shine favorably in the arena that has long been the unrivalled domain of the German school. The appearance of the sonata by Monsieur Fauré has introduced to us a new master who is perhaps the most formidable of all, as he combines a profound musical knowledge with an incredible wealth of melodic ideas and a kind of subliminal naïveté whose power is practically irresistible. In this sonata one finds everything that will appeal to the connoisseur: innovative forms, subtle modulations, unusual tone colors, the use of unexpected rhythms. Above everything hovers a magic that infuses the entire work and encourages the common listener to accept the most unsuspected audacities as something perfectly normal.
With this work of such modest appearance, Monsieur Fauré has secured his place among the masters in one single leap. Another few works of this kind and he will have won himself one of the greatest reputations in contemporary art.
Taunusstein, Spring 2011