GMN - Your Arts Network
GMN - Your Arts Network ClassicalPlus
Home Artists Composers Webcasts Downloads News Shop Contests Forums


 GMN Premium
 Classical Radio
 Classical Forum
FREE Newsletter

The GMN Shop
The MediaPlayer
Content Archive
Free Music
Grove Dictionary
All Searches

Email This Page Email This Page

 New User Sign Up
 Sign In
 Select a Player

Barcarolle No.8 in D Flat Major Op.96

Fauré – Barcarolles

Fauré’s 13 Barcarolles were composed between 1883 and 1921 and are second only to the 13 Nocturnes in offering a comprehensive survey of his pianistic art. Indeed, listening to the entire series is to be made aware of a remarkable journey from opus 26 to 116, a progression from what has been called a chaste voluptuousness and luxuriance to the spare clarity and serenity of Fauré’s final years. The Barcarolles show Fauré’s inimitable stamp on every bar yet are of infinite variety. The basic two or three beats per bar are often subdivided to leave a strikingly different impression in each Barcarolle. By the time the fifth Barcarolle is reached a conventional Venetian 6/8 lilt of No.1 has given way to something more richy varied. No.8, for example, commences with what might be called a tantalising play of rhythm, and in Nos.9 and 10 (both of them sufficiently dark-hued to merit the title La lugubre gondola) the rhythm exists for an essentially poetic and recondite purpose. In No.12, on the other hand, the rhythm is clear and playful, a final contradiction of Fauré’s sad estimate, ‘it seems that I repeat myself constantly and that I cannot find a noticeably different approach from that already expressed’. On the contrary the variety of approach in a fashionable genre that positively invites monotony is one of Fauré’s major triumphs. Mozart’s restraint and beauty of surface, Chopin’s long-breathed eloquence and Schumann’s magically illuminated codas are all prime influences transformed and transfigured into a wholly personal art whose distinctive strength and refinement derive as much from an innate sense of fastidiousness and discipline as from the most imaginative daring and poetic freedom.

Already in the first four Barcarolles Fauré’s stylized langour is enlivened by a mild but unmistakable dissonance and in the second and third in particular, Fauré’s technique and his tendency to substitute broken chords for simultaneous harmonies, is constantly refreshed and revitalised. He glides from one mode to another, effecting the most delicate and elliptical key transitions, and in works such as the 10th and 11th Barcarolles, modulates so rapidly that the line exists in a perpetual state of flux. At the same time everything renews itself though often so subtly as to suggest no perceptible change. Such controlled exuberance, such a mixture of fantasy and reason can be initially disconcerting. Who would have thought, for example, that the shy, serenade-like start to the second Barcarolle could blossom so quickly into full-blown passion and continue with an argument of the utmost harmonic sophistication and assurance? The third Barcarolle, too, finds Fauré floating happily between major and minor tonalities within an audaciously brief space, and his imaginative resource in this composition understandably caused Marguerite Long to marvel at ornaments which in one instance "crown the theme like sea foam on the edge of a wave". Again, the fourth Barcarolle modulates with a deceptive and feline ease though its greater transparency and simplicity make it altogether more accessible than its predecessors. Certainly there is little to prepare us for the fifth Barcarole, one of the most inspired and startling transitions. For many, including Saint-Saens and the more conservative members of the Paris conservatoire, such music represents the shock of the new, provoking both hostility and bewilderment. The time divisions of the opening are sufficiently syncopated to suggest rhythm rather than melody and the first official change of key brings no less unsettling harmonic ambivalence. The subsequent development is highly complex and at times fiercely energised so that the final resolution of such turbulence in a coda, like constantly shifting sunset vapour, seems doubly surprising and assuaging.

Such unpardonable genius reappears in the nonchalent with and grace of the 6th Barcarolle, whose amiability and well being are later abruptly clouded in the 7th Barcarolle, a halucinatory world of shadows with themes briefly glimpsed rather than exhibited to full view. By the time Fauré wrote his opus 90 he was suffering from an acute depression prompted by long neglect and increasing deafness. It is difficult not to see in this music a mirror of such bitterness, and like Beethoven, whom Farué timidly evoked for comparison, he retreated into an interior would alternately calm and despairing. The pall of extreme unhappiness hangs like a mist over the elegiac 9th Barcarolle, the melody waving its way through the most luminous and transparent texture. Such crepuscular beauty is markedly different to the startling but unselfconciousness modernity of the Barcarolles Nos. 8, 10 and 11 (their combination of compression and fluidity often suggesting several opposed forms of musical life proceeding simultaneously). The slow upward and insistent spiral of semi-quavers in No. 11, for example, conveys an impression both static and active before its resolution in a brief but radiant benediction.

The 12th Barcarolle leave such complexity securely behind. A firm favourite of Fauré’s ("I composed it by licking it over like a bear does his cubs"), its fundamentally tranquil marine motion leads to the 13th and final Bacarolle, a valediction that forbids weeping and music that as much as the String Quartet or song cycle L’Horizon chimerérque confirms Fauré’s claim, J’ai reculé les limites du raffinement. This unforgettable farewell, accomplished with rare poise and economy, also endorses Fauré’s belief that "art and music especially consists of raising ourselves as high as possible above that which is". Modest to the end and mere three years the 13th Barcarolle’s completion Fauré was heard to say "after all it is only so much …. I have done what I could….and so judge, my God". Such words add a further enigmatic dimension as they do from one of the music’s most serene agnostics.

Bryce Morrison

 Featured Item

Read more

gmnyour arts network 
 GMN ClassicalPlus 
 GMN JazzPlus 
Become an Affiliate · Contact Us · Advertising · Links
Home · Register · Terms of Use · Privacy Policy · Information Center · Help

Copyright © 1999 - 2001 Global Music Network Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Music downloads, audio and video provided for personal, non-commercial use only and may not be re-distributed.

Fri, Jul 10, 2020 12:06:47 AM US EST
back to top
4.101563E-02 Seconds
v4.0b - - True