In 1920, at the age of 75, the French composer Gabriel Fauré retired from his post as the director of the Paris Conservatory. At that stage he was all but completely deaf and didn't really want to retire but, along with the advice of his friends he stood down from his position on the 1st of October.
At first retiring seemed to give Fauré the creative boost he needed to write some fresh music as he wrote to his friend Fernand in 1921: "I feel dreadfully the onset of old age and I regret not finding my freedom sooner... I've done good work even so. I've finished a 13th (piano) nocturne."
Throughout most of his life had had dedicated himself to composing largely for the piano, but in his final two works he composed for Piano Trio (Violin, Cello, and Piano), Op.120 and a String Quartet, Op.121. In reference to the Piano Trio in D minor, the French Fauré scholar Jean-Michel Nectoux writes, ‘all the thematic and rhythmic elements are now in place and proceed to indulge in a joyful celebration, a perfect balance between that ‘fantasy and reason’
We know that Fauré had intended the trio to be for Clarinet, Cello and Piano as he wrote to his wife in 1922: "I've started a trio for clarinet (or violin), cello, and piano," he wrote to his wife on September 26, 1922. "The trouble is that I can't work for long at a time. My worst tribulation is perpetual fatigue." However, he seems to have abandoned the idea of composing the clarinet version for whatever reason. Faure's publisher, Durand, only published the work for Violin, Cello and Piano. Now, Omega Ensemble have sought out a version that was adapted for the clarinet, cello and piano and are presenting a version that is more aligned to Faure’s original ideas for the work in what is likely the first Australian performance of the clarinet version
Omega's Artistic Director and Clarinettist, David Rowden chats with Samuel Cottell and explains how he first came across the clarinet version and why he decided to program it:
Why did you decide to perform the Clarinet version of Faure’s Trio instead of the original violin, cello and piano version?
I was first introduced to the work by my mentor and colleague, Paul Meyer. I have always admired his musicianship, technique and ability to adapt arrangements and make them work incredibly well for the Clarinet. The Faure is one of those such arrangements, and it can be argued that the tone colour of the Clarinet can help to give that extra emotional impact. When I founded Omega I wanted to present audiences with chamber music that was lost to time, that is often fascinating and of high-quality. I always want to give audiences a fresh perspective on music they might already know, and this involves retracing the composers original intentions, such as the case of this Trio. Once I had heard the clarinet version I knew that I wanted to share this with our audiences and give them the alternative option that Faure had originally intended for this beautiful piece of music.
How would you describe Faure’s music, and what attracts you (as a player) to French music?
Faure’s music is incredibly lyrical and has this immense sense of space and beauty, which is something that also attracts me to French music in general. To me, Faure's music stands alongside Debussy and Ravel's music in representing that "French" sound world. Ravel was one of Faure's student and we've also included the famous Ravel string quartet on the program. Interestingly, Faure's Trio was the second last work he ever composed and Ravel's string quartet was one of his most earlier, so we get this interesting look at two composers at different stages of their lives.
This work was originally intended for clarinet, cello, and piano but in Faure’s letters he sent to his wife he said it was he also had an idea for to create a clarinet version. How does this piece stand in terms of the clarinet version (is it clarinet-eqsue) or somewhat un-clarinet like in it’s writing?
I think it is actually very well composed, or in this instance adapted for Clarinet, very well as it fits the range of the instrument well. This is not always the case with arrangements, and can in some cases become quite awkward for the instrumentalist. The clarinet is such a wonderful instrument in that it has many personalities in the upper, mid and low register (much like the violin) and has its own character, so it fits quite well in conveying the melodic and harmonic of ideas of Faure's music.
David is also performing alongside his wife, Maria Raspopova, who is Omega's pianist in the Trio. Both the clarinet and the piano have prominent roles in this work. "It is always a unique pleasure to be able to experience the music we perform together as husband and wife and also as musical colleagues. We are incredibly lucky to share our passion for chamber music together."
Omega’s friend and clarinettist Paul Meyer performing the Clarinet version of Faure’s Trio in D Minor, Op.120
Omega is presenting the same version and looking back to Faure’s true intentions in their final concert for 2018, Ravel Impressions at City Recital Hall on 16 November. Join Mark Grandison for a pre-concert talk exploring the music before the concert. Hear Faure’s Piano Trio in D Minor as the composer may have originally intended, and in a way you will not likely hear live again.