Roy Howat has been living in the world of Gabriel Fauré and the French masters for all of his professional life. He is not only a scholar and one of the world’s leading authorities on this repertoire, but also a musician of profound understanding. Roy joins us in June to lead a program dedicated to the music of Fauré and has given us an insight into this great composer:
Gabriel Fauré left us a large body of marvellous songs, piano music, chamber music and stage works, composed over an amazingly long musical career lasting from the 1860s to the 1920s. Some of his works, like his two Piano Quartets, are well known for their dramatic immediacy; some, though, have long been fogged by a lingering old tradition of murmuring them in subdued half-tints. Fauré himself deplored that habit, and his son always exhorted musicians to ‘play out the drama’ in his father’s music. The most dramatic single case of this comes in Fauré’s First Piano Quartet, completed in 1905 but almost lost from view since Fauré’s death, because of misprinted tempo indications in the original edition that resulted in lugubriously slow performances. When I was asked in 2000 to produce a new edition of this work, my study of the original parts quickly showed that the original performers – Fauré himself at the piano beside the great violinist Ysaÿe – undoubtedly performed the work with vigour and liveliness, including a 1906 Paris premiere that famously brought the house down. An initial workshop arranged by me in 2002 (with ANAM’s former strings professor Bill Hennessy) immediately proved the case; since then the work has again been bringing down the house, its finale often encored, in performances by myself and the legendary Czech Panocha Quartet in the Czech Republic, Japan and London’s Wigmore Hall. Rarely have I been so thrilled as by this discovery, putting a great masterpiece back on the map!
FIVE FAST FACTS ON FAURÉ
> He was born in the south of France, and many of his colleagues sensed a Moorish streak in his appearance and temperament. He was reportedly slow to anger, but if he did blow his top, then stand well back was the advice. But he was well known to be very equitable and fair, completely honest, with a great sense of humour, and sometimes a bit of a prankster.
> Across a composing career of 60 years he left us over 100 superb songs, which are now being collected for the first time into a single complete edition (Peters Edition, edited by Roy Howat and Australian pianist-scholar Emily Kilpatrick).
> His famous Pavane is habitually played at about half the speed Fauré intended; the same goes for several other of his pieces or songs. There’s an inherent cogency, a sort of emotional urgency, to most of his music.
> From the 1870s Fauré spearheaded the foundation of a solid French chamber music repertoire, leaving us two violin sonatas, two cello sonatas, one trio, several quartets and quintets, and many pieces for solo instrument and piano.
> He was the most radically reforming Director ever at the Paris Conservatoire, a job he took on at the age of 60 and held until he was 75. His successful reforms earned him the nickname among students and staff of “Robespierre”.
Words by Roy Howat
FRI 24 JUNE 7PM
FAURÉ Elegie for cello and piano op.24
FAURÉ Piano Trio in D minor op.120
FAURÉ Nocturne No. 13 in B minor op. 119
FAURÉ Fantasie for flute and piano op.79
FAURÉ Dolly Suite op. 56
FAURÉ Quintet No. 1 op. 89
Roy Howat piano/director
Venue ANAM, South Melbourne Town Hall
Bookings anam.com.au 03 9645 7911
PLUS… Join us for In Conversation With Roy Howat on Friday 24 June at 3pm. An hour long, informal discussion.