Childhood & Early Life
Gabriel-Urbian Faure was born on May 12, 1845, in Pamires, Mid-Pyrenees, France to Toussaint and Marie Faure as the youngest of their six children.
For four years, Faure stayed with a wet nurse and was only brought back to the family when his father became the director of the Ecole Normale at Montgauzy.
Faure displayed early interest in music by playing the harmonium so he was put to learn the piano and organ at the age of 9 in October 1854. He was put in Ecole Niedermeyer (the school of religious music), Paris, where he took lessons to be a church organist and choirmaster.
His early music training began under the guidance of Camille Saint-Saens, who identified the talent Faure possessed and keenly spent time polishing him further. Faure’s bonding with him became strong enough to turn into a lifetime friendship.
Faure’s composition ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’, Op. 11 in school was acknowledged with the first prize, premiers prix in 1865.
He passed out of school as a Laureat in organ, piano and composition and a Maitre de Chapelle diploma in 1865.
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The first appointment for Faure came from the Church of Saint –Sauveur at Rennes in Brittany as the chief organist. He remained in service for four years but a strained relationship with the priest resulted in his resignation.
He served the church of Notre-Dame de Clignancourt, in the north of Paris as an assistant organist for a few months in 1870 and the rest of year was spent in serving the army in the Franco-Prussian war.
He served as a music teacher in his school, Ecole Niedermeyer in Switzerland during the Paris Commune.
He returned to Paris in October 1871 whereby he started working as a choirmaster at the Eglise Saint- Sulpice under Charles-Marie Widor, the composer and organist.
Faure regularly visited Camille Saint- Saens and Pauline Garcia- Viardot musical salons wherein he got acquainted to some famous Parisian personalities like writers Gustave Flaubert, Ivan Turgenev and also composers like Hector Berlioz and Georges Bizet.
The social meetings with the known personalities helped him set up the musical society 'Societe Nationale Musique' in February 1871 in order to promote the upcoming French music. Faure became its secretary in 1874.
A major leap in Faure’s composition career happened with his Violin sonata’s performance at the Societe Nationale concert in January 1877.
Post the retirement of Saint- Saens, Faure eventually became organist at Eglise de la Madeleine in 1877.
Due to some disturbances in his life he moved from Paris and shifted to Weimar wherein he met Franz Liszt, whose compositions Saint Saens always insisted him to play.
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The activities that Faure left unattended at 'Societe Nationale Musique' after leaving Paris were revived from 1883 onwards.
He did have a tough time meeting the financial needs of his family so continued at the Eglise de la Madeleine and also gave piano and harmony lessons at times.
The few compositions he managed to work on were sold to publishers at nominal rates of approx 50 francs per piece and even without royalties.
His struggle continued for almost a decade with the failure to arrange a platform for his upscale compositions and so did his depression.
Faure was finally appointed as the Inspector of Music Conservatories in the French provinces.
The year 1896 turned out to be very encouraging as he became the chief organist at the Eglise de la Madeleine and also a professor at the Conservatoire de Paris after Jules Massenet.
Faure was appointed as the director of the Conservatoire de Paris from 1905 to 1920. He is appreciated for the changes he brought forth that optimized the use of government funds.
While at the Conservatoire, he hardly managed time for composition. His composition gained momentum only when he was off work from the Conservatoire in a laid back mood in the hotel room by the Swiss lake. Some of the famous works like the opera, Penelope; songs like La chanson d’Eve and piano pieces have come from there.
The beginning of the nineteenth century marked his increasing popularity in Britain as against in Germany, Spain and Russia where his acceptance was still slow. His trips to England gave him an opportunity to perform at the Buckingham Palace too in 1908.
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From 1903 to 1921, he also worked as a music critic at Le Figaro.
Suffering from hearing impairment, he had to seek an early retirement in 1920.
Work & Achievements
During his school days, Faure published his first composition which was a work for piano, titled Trois romances sans paroles in 1863.
The very popular composition ‘Requiem’ was composed in 1888 which is believed to be inspired by his parent’s death and brings forth the emotional turmoil he went through.
As a professor at the Conservatoire de Paris, he taught some great personalities like Maurice Ravel, Nadia Boulanger and Charles Koechlin. They together orchestrated for ‘Pelleas et Melisande’ which was one of Faure’s famous suite.
The piano duet, ‘Dolly Suite’ was written in 1890s along with a vocal composition for the wife of Claude Debussy, titled ‘La bonne chanson’.
Some of Faure’s exceptional orchestral works includes the orchestral suite entitled, Masues et bergamasques (based on music for a dramatic entertainment)
The incidental music for the English premiere of Maurice Maeterlinck’s Pelleas et Melisande in 1898 and the Promethee (a lyrical tragedy composed for the amphitheatre at Beziers) were some of the well-known work of Faure during his last years.
Faure received the Grand-Croix of the Legion d honneur in 1920.
In the year 1922, there was a public tribute organized for him in national homage at the Sorbonne wherein a number of French artists were present. By this time, Faure was completely hard of hearing.
Personal Life & Legacy
Faure got engaged to Marianne Viardot (daughter of Pauline Garcia- Viardot) in 1877 but it was called off by Marianne. This came as a big emotional setback for Faure and he eventually left Paris.
He later got married to Marie Frement (the daughter of Emmanuel Fremiet, a leading sculptor) in 1883, and had two sons.
His last years were plagued by ill-health caused mainly because of his heavy smoking but it did not keep him away from the young composers who were deeply devoted to him like the Les six.
Faure passed away at the age of 79 on November 4, 1924 due to pneumonia. He was given a state funeral at Eglise de la Madeleine and cremated at Cemetiere de Passy in Paris, France.