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Two French composer birthdays for May 12: Gabriel Faure & Jules Massenet

Two French composer birthdays for May 12: Gabriel Faure & Jules Massenet featured image

Gabriel Faure wrote some of the most beautiful, sensuous melodies of his time. It’s hard to find a source categorizing him as an Impressionist composer; his music is considered a link between the end of the Romantic era with the modernism of the mid-20th century. When Faure was born, Chopin was still active, and when Faure died, jazz and atonal music (music without a discernible melody) were emerging.

The Pavane in F-sharp minor, Op. 50 was written in 1887. It was originally written for piano, but became better known as a work for flute and orchestra, arranged by Faure himself. The orchestral version was premiered at Concert Lamoureux in 1888, and a few years later, a version with dancers and chorus, in a “choreographic spectacle” was performed at a garden party of his patron, Elisabeth, Comtesse Greffulhe. Can you imagine sipping champagne at a garden party in Paris, listening to this beautiful piece of music? I can think of worse things.

Andreas Blau, when he was Principal Flute with the Berlin Philarmonic, performs Faure’s Pavane.

Gabriel Faure was born May 12, 1845 in Pamiers, south of France, and died November 4, 1924, in Paris.

 

Jules Massenet is another French composer considered a Romantic, and was known for his operas, oratorios, ballet, orchestral works, incidental music, piano pieces, and songs. He taught composition at the Conservatoire in Paris and by the time of his death, was considered outdated and unadventurous. His music remained popular in France and abroad, and after a few decades, his music regained its original acclaim. His operas were not considered by critics to be at the level of Mozart, Verdi, and Wagner (can anyone compare to Mozart?) but are considered well-written and significant works of the Belle Epoque.

One of Massenet’s most famous works is for solo violin and orchestra – the “Meditation” from the opera Thais. It’s a popular choice for violin soloists to play as an encore after a concerto appearance, with folks like Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Itzhak Perlman, and Maxim Vengerov performing it as a balm after a concerto of flash and virtuosic flair. British choreographer Frederick Ashton created a pas de deux to this work, as well.

This was captured at a live performance of The Royal Ballet at the Met, featuring Leane Benjamin and Thiago Soares.

Jules Massenet was born May 12 1842 in Saint-Etienne in France, and died August 13, 1912 in Paris.

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