Gabriel Fauré Nocturnes
Nowhere is the complex nature of Faurés art better
exemplified than in the great series of 13 Nocturnes. They span almost the whole of his
creative life, the first dating from 1875 when he was 30, the last from 1921 when he was
76. Whilst the appellation Nocturne is neutral rather than evocative, it is
quite clear that Nocturne was chosen for piano pieces of the greatest
emotional weight and depth, ranging from the poised equilibrium of No.4 to the great
struggle of No.13, from the long lines of No.7 to the terse and eprigrammatic No.9, from
the uninterruptedly radiant flow of No.3 to the inarticulateness of No.10, from serenity
of No.6 to the anguish and torment of No.12.
The emotional range is projected in an equivalent variety
of place forms and through and ever-growing arsenal of composition techniques. The first 5
Nocturnes belong to the first great flowering of Faurés genius as a piano composer.
Though as suggested earlier the piano writing owes less to Chopin than is generally
supposed, The ABA calm agitated calm, scheme is typically
Chopinesque. Another quintessential Fauréan feature again derived from Chopin is that
there are no introductions but all-important codas towards which everything leads
summations, fulfilments, resolutions or qualifications.
Fauré wrote regretfully of the similarity of
his music; "It seems that I repeat myself constantly and that I cannot find a
noticeably different approach from that already expressed", and yet listening to the
6th Nocturne which is separated from the 5th by 10 years on is award
of an enormous development. Apart from the much richer, subtler, harmony there is,
already, a mixture of sensuous lyrical appeal and something approaching the sparer, more
angular manner of his later works. The piece juxtaposes various independent blocks of
material which, however seem to dove-tail so logically and inevitably. Though quite
un-analysable, it remains one of Faurés perfect works.
The 7th Nocturne is also multi-sectional but
what is very striking is the way that each section, even the opening, starts from
something unresolved. Although there are no long tunes, just evolving melodic cells. This
is the longest, most developed of the Nocturnes, surely because, while
everything appears eventually to be resolved in on of Faurés most miraculous codas,
we sense for the first time the difficulty of saying anything categorically.