Piano Quartet No.1 in c minor, Op.15
Fauré's Piano Quartet in c minor was perhaps his best known chamber music work and was considered in the front rank of such works, being regularly performed in the days when piano quartets were frequently heard in concert. It dates from 1879 not long after Fauré had visited Wagner and listened to his music. Impressed though he was, unlike Cesar Franck or d’Indy, he refused to fall under Wagner’s spell and set off on his own path. No better example can be found than this work. The opening movement, Allegro molto moderato, is bold and sweeping over a wide range, powerfully rhythmic and very original, it is clearly a challenge to Franck and the other French Wagnerians. He is deliberately seeking to expand the language of romanticism without going in the same direction as Wagner. Fauré, unlike Brahms or Schumann, never resorted to having the strings treated as a choir against the piano. He recognized and accepted the basic difference in sound and character between the piano and string instruments and never tried to make the piano sing long sustained melodies. He showed that it was not necessary. Using opposing arpeggios, chords and runs against the singing of a single instrument or a group of them, and giving the piano an equal role in a rich contrapuntal texture created a dazzling variety of tonal effects.
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) was born in the village of Pamiers, Ariège, Midi-Pyrénées. At an early age he was sent to study at the famous École Niedermeyer, a Parisian school which prepared church organists and choir directors. He studied with several prominent French musicians, including Charles Lefèvre and Camille Saint-Saëns. For most of his life, Fauré worked as a church organist and teacher. Among his students were Maurice Ravel and Nadia Boulanger. He was a founder of the the Société Nationale de Musique and eventually became director of the Paris Conservatory. In retrospect, he has come to be regarded as a transitional and unique figure in French music. His lifetime and works spanned the period of the mid Romantic right up to the modern post-WWI developments of Stravinsky.
He and his music were well-known during his lifetime and several of his works are still popular today such as his Requiem, the opera Pénélope, the music for Pelléas et Mélisande and the Dolly Suite. He wrote a considerable amount of chamber music; including two piano quartets, two piano quintets, two cello sonatas, two violin sonatas, a string quartet, and a piano trio.