Doctor of Musical Arts
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) was one of the most influential composers in France at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. Through his compositions and roles as professor, and later, director of the Paris Conservatoire, Fauré was instrumental in the development of twentieth-century French music; shaping “the core of the first wave of French composers to be wholly ‘twentieth-century’” (Duchen, 2000).
Fauré’s compositions span 121 opuses and his works for voice and chamber ensemble are well known amongst singers and chamber musicians alike. However, his name and works for solo piano are unfamiliar amongst performing pianists. This is for no lack of music written for the instrument for he wrote approximately 60 pieces for the piano.
One of his most important contributions to the piano repertoire is his collection of barcarolles. Inspired by the songs of the Venetian Gondoliers, the barcarolle was a well-established genre prior to Fauré composing his first barcarolle, which was published in 1881. Mendelssohn (1809-1847) composed three, and Chopin (1810-1849) composed one, Barcarolle in F♯ major, Op. 60, which is the most famous barcarolle for solo piano. However, Fauré’s collection of barcarolles is the largest contribution to the genre by a single composer and argued to have defined the genre, earning Fauré the title of “master of the barcarolle” (Crouch, 4). This raises the question: if Fauré’s collection is the pinnacle of the genre, why is Chopin’s barcarolle the most famous? One reason for this is because Fauré’s works are considered difficult to understand.
To bridge the divide, this monograph advocates for a narrative approach. Using an adaptation of Byron Almén’s model (2008), this monograph demonstrates how a narrative approach can guide the interpreter from analysis to concept, to interpretation, and to performance. The work demonstrates how the results of the analysis can be used to create a narrative that the interpreter can use to investigative how they choose to physically perform the piece in order to create a captivating performance. The hope is that through greater understanding and captive performances, these works will finally earn their place on the concert stage.
Summary for Lay Audience
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) was one of the most influential composers in France at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. His music and his roles as a teacher, and later, director of the Paris Conservatoire, have been recognized as instrumental in the development of twentieth-century French music. Fauré’s music is well known amongst singers and chamber musicians, but not amongst pianists, even though Fauré wrote approximately 60 pieces for the piano.
One of his most important contributions to the piano repertoire is his collection of thirteen barcarolles. A barcarolle is a style of piece that imitates the songs gondoliers would sing while guiding their passengers through Venice’s canals. Fauré’s collection is said to have defined the genre, and yet, the one barcarolle by Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) is the most famous barcarolle for solo piano. One reason for this is because Fauré’s music can be difficult to understand.
To help performers better access Fauré’s barcarolles, this monograph advocates for a narrative approach to understanding and interpreting these pieces. This will include analyzing the music in a manner that allows the pianist to create a narrative for the piece. This study will then demonstrate how the pianist’s narrative can be used to guide the way the pianist plays the piece to help bring the music to life in order to create an impactful musical experience for their audience.
Pope, Matthew T., "A Narrative Approach to the Barcarolles for Solo Piano by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)" (2021). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8197.