31 Jan 2012

Faure – Elegie

Written by Jeff Counts

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, strings

Duration: 8 minutes.

THE COMPOSER – GABRIEL FAURÉ (1845-1924) – When Fauré’s solo cello Élégie was officially premiered late in 1883, he was only weeks away from the birth of the first of two sons he would have with Marie Fremiet, his new wife as of the previous March. Life as a family man forced Fauré to be financially productive in ways that took time away from his composing, a pursuit he confined now mostly to the summer months.

THE MUSIC – The Élégie actually dates unofficially back to 1880, at which time Fauré still intended it as part of full sonata for cello and piano. Though he found the positive reaction to an early private performance encouraging he never did finish the sonata. The orphaned single movement did not suffer much though, and soon took on a new life as a highly appealing concert work, which is how we know it today. Fauré called the “new” piece Élégie and dedicated it in tribute to cellist Jules Loeb, who had passed away in 1883. The piece was first performed that December in its sonata guise – cello and piano – but Fauré would orchestrate it several years later at the request of conductor Eduoard Colonne. For a composer who is remembered more for his many small efforts than his few grand ones, the Élégie represents Fauré’s voice as surely as his Requiem. His style would certainly evolve in various ways as he aged (indeed it was already starting to do so by the time the Élégie was orchestrated) and he would prove an innovative link between declining Romantic and the rising 20th Century. It is from early distillations of the Romantic Era aesthetic into simple, often mono-chromatic mood settings that we know Fauré best, however, and the somber straight lines of the Élégie display his lifelong gift for combining passion with grace.

THE WORLD – Richard Wagner died in Venice in 1883, incidentally the same year The Metropolitan Opera was founded in New York City. Also in 1883, the famous and catastrophic volcanic eruption on the Indonesian island of Krakatoa occurred.

THE CONNECTION – Faure’s Élégie has appeared only a few times on past Utah Symphony programs. The most recent Masterworks performance was in 1986. Charles Ketcham conducted and Lynn Harrell was soloist.