"Clair de lune", ("Moonlight") Op. 46 No 2, is a song by Gabriel Fauré, composed in 1887 to words by Paul Verlaine. The pianist Graham Johnson writes that it closes Fauré's second period and opens the doors into his third. Johnson notes that it is "for many people the quintessential French mélodie"
Though Faure lived well into the 20th century, he was born when Chopin was still alive and only eighteen years after Beethoven's death. Most of the Romantic era's composers were his contemporaries, he came to know many of them and outlived most of them.
A master of his craft and innovative in his work, his now classic Requiem was performed at the memorial service for singer Bing Crosby at New York's St. Bartholomew's Church (where the young Leopold Stokowski had been the organist). His music, now a staple of his country's literature, ultimately and perhaps even inevitably made him famous and respected by the musical world - and he was quite deaf toward the end of his life. Beethoven, whose deafness manifested itself relatively early, had lamented why he himself should be ". . . lacking in the sense in which I should be more perfect than others." It takes little effort to imagine the same thought in the mind of composer Gabriel Fauré.
In 1883 Fauré married Marie Fremiet, the daughter of a leading sculptor, Emmanuel Fremiet. The marriage was affectionate, but Marie became resentful of Fauré's frequent absences, his dislike of domestic life – "horreur du domicile" – and his love affairs, while she remained at home.
Gabriel Fauré's liaison with Emma Bardac in Duchen's words, "began for the first time, in his late forties", he experienced a fulfilling, passionate relationship which extended over several years. His principal biographers all agree that this affair inspired burst of creativity and a new originality in his music, exemplified in the song cycle La bonne chanson. Fauré wrote the Dolly Suite for piano duet between 1894 and 1897 and dedicated it to Bardac's daughter Hélène, known as "Dolly". Some people suspected that Fauré was Dolly's father, but biographers including Nectoux and Duchen think it unlikely. Fauré's affair with Emma Bardac is thought to have begun after Dolly was born, though there is no conclusive evidence either way. Emma later divorced her husband in order to marry another composer - Claude Debussy, his second wife.
|Adela Maddison in The Sketch, 1910|
From around 1894, Maddison and her husband played a major part in encouraging and facilitating Fauré's entry onto the London musical scene. She became Fauré's pupil, and he thought her a gifted composer. She composed a number of mélodies, setting the works of poets such as Sully Prudhomme, Coppée, Verlaine and Samain in 1900 Fauré told the latter that her treatment of his poem Hiver was masterly.
During 1898 – c. 1905, she lived in Paris without her husband; Fauré's biographer Robert Orledge believes there was a romantic liaison with Fauré, who dedicated his Nocturne No. 7, Op. 74, to her in 1898; this piece was expressive of his feelings towards her, according to Orledge.
Eventually she developed a passion for the admiration and advocacy of his music, and perhaps inevitably, for him as well: leaving her husband and two children in England, she moved to Paris to be near Fauré.
|Gabriel Fauré and Marguerite Hasselmans|
Gabriel Fauré suffered from poor health in his later years, brought on in part by heavy smoking. Despite this, he remained available to young composers, including members of Les Six, most of whom were devoted to him. Nectoux writes, "In old age he attained a kind of serenity, without losing any of his remarkable spiritual vitality, but rather removed from the sensualism and the passion of the works he wrote between 1875 and 1895."
In his last months, Gabriel Fauré struggled to complete a string quartet. Twenty years earlier he had been the dedicatee of Ravel's String Quartet. Ravel and others urged Fauré to compose one of his own. He refused for many years, on the grounds that it was too difficult. When he finally decided to write it, he did so in trepidation, telling his wife, "I've started a Quartet for strings, without piano. This is a genre which L.v. Beethoven in particular made famous, and causes all those who are not L.v. Beethoven to be terrified of it." He worked on the piece for a year, finishing it on September 11, 1924, less than two months before he died, working long hours towards the end to complete it. The quartet was premiered after his death; he declined an offer to have it performed privately for him in his last days, as his hearing had deteriorated to the point where musical sounds were horribly distorted in his ear.
Gabriel Fauré died in Paris from pneumonia on November 4, 1924 at the age of 79. He was given a state funeral at the Église de la Madeleine and is buried in the Passy Cemetery in Paris.