Of all the French art song composers whom I could have based this project upon, why Gabriel Fauré? The first reason that comes to mind is a 1989 compilation of Fauré songs recorded by soprano Barbara Hendricks and Michael Dalberto on the Warner Classics label. I discovered it as a young singer and found both the melodies and the texts immediately engaging. I especially loved Hendrick’s interpretation of the song, “Chanson d’amour.” The parallel structure of the poet Silvestre’s statements and his enumeration of everything that he loved about his beloved (“J’aime tes yeux, j’aime ton front…”) the gentleness of the accompaniment, the clarity of the song’s structure – it captured me.
Fauré’s early songs are accessible to young singers who are ready to delve into a French-language song. The form is typically either strophic or ABA and the melodies are beautiful and restrained, never dramatic. As a voice teacher, I’ve sung, assigned, and taught many of the songs from the first collection of songs which were composed from 1863-1887. Songs such as “Au bord de l’eau” and “Lydia” were ideal class songs when I taught French diction to undergraduates in a university setting.
And yet, Fauré wrote at least 100 songs. (So much music to sing, so little time!) I’ve not had the opportunity to venture much into his third collection written between 1908 and 1922. They’re regarded for their introspective nature and sparseness of texture, Fauré’s output during the time in his life when he was director of the Paris Conservatory and a music critic for Le Figaro. The cycle, “La Chanson d’Eve” (Opus 95) is something that I’ll likely explore… So here I go, posed to focus on Fauré!