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Gabriel Faure (1845 - 1924)



Gabriel Faure was born in the Ariege district of the Pyrenees in the south of France, the son of a village schoolmaster. After a musical education he held various posts as organist in Paris, following Saint-Saens at the church of the Madeleine, and was professor of composition at the Conservatoire. Later in life he became very deaf, though he kept composing music of high quality despite this disability.

The Pavane dates from 1887, the same year as the Requiem. It is dedicated to the Countess Greffulhe, a patron of Parisian society of the time. Originally written for orchestra alone, chorus parts were added to a rather trivial text written by the Countess' cousin. It is not wholly clear how happy Faure was at the addition of the chorus; despite praising it in a letter to his patron, his politeness may have been overriding his musical judgement! It is rarely performed with the chorus nowadays, which adds rather too much formality and weight to what is essentially a light essay in nostalgia. As Faure deprecatingly remarked, the work is "elegant ... but not otherwise important."

Interestingly, there is a link with Stravinsky through the impresario Diaghilev: the Pavane was danced as a ballet in 1917 by Diaghilev's influential Ballet Russe company, who, in the previous five years, had given the premieres of all Stravinsky's great ballets.

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