I am no good at botany, so I won’t be able to tell you the name of the flower in the picture. It grows in Giverny, in the former garden of the Impressionist painter Claude Monet. That’s where I saw it right after a short rain shower, in all its splendour, its mysterious aura. Now listen to Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Quintet No. 1 in D Minor, op. 89. Perhaps you will fall under its spell like I did with Fauré’s work. Like I did with Monet’s garden.
I imagine the painter walking through the long rows of flowers after a gush of rain. The green is lush, the colours are looming, the contrast couldn’t be greater with the grey, cloudy sky. The rain drops are little pieces of art, each of them. The occasional ray of sunshine makes the garden glitter, just as if a fairy had passed and dispersed some fairy dust over the plants. Monet should have liked this, the atmosphere, the light effects, the magic. In 1883 he had moved into that house in Giverny, seven years later he was able to buy it. It became his paradise, his source of inspiration and the place where he would die in peace at the age of 86.
Gabriel Fauré noted the first ideas for his piano quintet in 1887. By 1891 he played through the sketches of the quintet with the Ysaÿe Quartet, named after the composer Eugène Ysaÿe, to whom Fauré would dedicate his work. He finalized the score in 1905 after a great creative effort in 1904 where he would refer to the piece as “this animal of a quintet”. More than 20 years passed between the first idea and the final score. Consider this in the light of the fact that Fauré’s chamber music has almost between forgotten. So much effort, so much pain and so little recognition.
Fauré’s quintet has three movements and the mood oscillates between mysterious and melancholic, at times a meditation, at times a lament. When Monet was able to enjoy his garden of peace he must at times have felt something similar. He had worked so much, he had been broke for most of his life, he had been derided by the critics. Still he kept going. So much inspiration, so much creativity, it had to materialize in sketches, drawings, paintings, works that later would sell for millions of dollars.
I love this quintet and I love Fauré’s music as such. I will ask you to show a little tolerance as there will be several posts on Fauré over the next months. Early in my life I discovered Mozart, Schubert and Tchaikovsky, at a more mature age I added Corelli, Bach and Shostakovich. Finally Fauré and Debussy. Piano Quintet No. 1 has been recorded by Cristina Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet.
© Charles Thibo