Spring has sprung around these parts in Washington, DC, but for this blog post I am going to continue with our international theme and wax poetic about springtime in France. I’m bringing up this geographic location because two well-known French composers, Gabriel Fauré and Jules Massenet, share a birthday today, May 12!
Although neither Fauré nor Massenet was born in Paris, both spent a large chunk of their professional musical lives there. Fauré, born in Pamiers in the southwest of France near the Pyrenees, originally started his musical career as a church organist and choirmaster (although his religious convictions were somewhat questionable). After moving from church to church for a while, he came to work under organist and composer Charles Marie Widor as choirmaster at the Église Saint-Sulpice Church, and later as the deputy organist at La Madeleine Church, where Saint-Saëns was the principal organist. Both of these churches were in Paris, and during that time, Fauré helped institute the Société Nationale de Musique, which brought together composers from all over Paris, including Saint-Saëns, Massenet, Duparc, and Franck. Later, around the turn of the century, Fauré became the head of the Paris Conservatoire, and his compositions became known worldwide.
Fauré may be best well-known for his Requiem, Pavane, and droves of mélodies, or French Art Songs.
Below are some of his compositions that we have in our collection:
Requiem: For Four-Part Chorus of Mixed Voices with Soprano and Baritone Solo (BRM22817)
Vol. 1: Piano Reduction/Soli Score pt. 1; Vol. 2: Piano Reduction/Soli Score pt. 2; Vol. 3: Soprano Chorus; Vol. 4: Alto Chorus; Vol. 5: Tenor Chorus; Vol. 6: Bass Chorus
20 Top Young People’s Classics (BRM35829): Contains Pavane, op. 50, arranged for two pianos
Impromptus Nos. 1-3 (BRM28277, BRM21558, and BRM28278)
Pièces breve, op. 84 (BRM25382)
Digital Talking Book:
Pavane, op. 50 for Flute (DBM03553)
We also have a collection of 15 mélodies by Fauré from the MusAcom series with Nico Castel for different voices: These books include a performance of the song with accompaniment, a reading of the lyrics for diction guidance, a translation of the song, a recording of the melody (on piano) and a separate recording of the piano accompaniment alone for use in practice. For example, we have the ever-popular Chanson d’amour for soprano, mezzo-soprano, and tenor (DBMs 1869, 1892, and 1870, respectively). We also have Après un rêve for soprano and tenor (DBMs 1843 and 1867). There are many more than that, so please call and ask for specific titles!
Ave Verum, for soprano (LPM00742)
Jules Massenet, though a contemporary of Fauré, was more traditional in his musical approach, and regarded by some as old-fashioned around the time of his death in 1912. Fauré himself was even slightly critical of Massenet’s musical style. However, his operatic output alone, including Manon, Werther, and Thaїs, have stood the test of time and are performed on a regular basis today. From young adolescence, Massenet was a student at the Paris Conservatoire, and in 1863, when he was barely 19 years old, won the coveted Prix de Rome, which allowed him three years of funded musical study.
Here is a selected list of works by or about Massenet that we have in the collection:
Manon, libretto in 3 volumes (BRM26386)
Thaїs: Meditation for violin and piano. A staple of the violin repertoire and a must for any aspiring violinist (BRM26101).
Digital Talking Book:
An Introduction to Massenet: Werther (DBM03432)
Famous Dramatic Overtures: Compares dramatic overtures by Mozart, Wagner, Wolf-Ferrari, and Massenet (DBM00637)
Manon, libretto (LPM00432)
Of course, there is much more than what’s listed here—this is just the beginning! Soon enough, with the material mentioned here, you, too, can experience Paris in springtime. Please get in touch with us here in the Music Section if you would like any of this material!