Gabriel Fauré

Automne, song for voice & piano in B minor, Op.18/3

    Description by Jeremy Grimshaw

    Automne (1878), the third of the three songs in Gabriel Fauré's Op. 18, dates from a pivotal time in the composer's life: he had recently completed a pilgrimage to Cologne to attend performances of Wagner's Das Rheingold and Die Walküre and was just gaining enough acclaim as a composer that, in the year following, he received his first contract from a music publisher. And while the dramatic turbulence and harmonic tension of Wagner, as well as Fauré's increasingly acute sense of musical expression, can both be detected in Automne, it is difficult to not also read into the song's themes of sorrow and regret. Fauré's personal circumstances, namely the termination a few months before of his engagement to Marianne Viardot, was an event that, according to Fauré's biographers, always cast a shadow in his memory. The text by Armand Silvestre set by Fauré in Automne poignantly reads the passing of the seasons as an allegory for the passing of one's youth: "Autumn...I watch rushing past, like a torrent/all your melancholy days." The speaker wanders off daydreaming, "carried away on the wings of regret" into the idyllic past of youth, the "sunny glow of memory triumphant," but even there finds only bittersweet repose. Fauré sets Silvestre's poem in a rather more dramatic fashion than is usually encountered in his songs, with clearly etched melodies and countermelodies set against a propulsively tense accompanimental background. The broken chord figurations continue without interruption from the first bar nearly to the last, creating a pensive, almost minimalist tension, while the ominous, angular syncopations and dissonant leaps of the distinctive bass melody cast a pall over the sung text it precedes and occasionally interrupts. Fauré doesn't stray far or long from the B minor key, but inflects his harmonic progressions with strident chromatic turns and diminished chord hesitations. The vocal line follows sinuous contours, with upward leaps softened by subsequent scalar arcs; throughout it defers to the more pronounced melodies in the accompaniment, but finally rises, at the poem's cathartic culmination, to an expressive apex that is perhaps uncharacteristically uninhibited for Fauré but entirely appropriate to the sentiments of the text.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Sony Classical 88875192912
    2015 Willowhayne Records WLW 19736
    2013 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099990377
    2012 Guild GMCD 7373
    2012 Warner Classics
    2009 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099921662
    2008 Dynamic 583
    2006 Brilliant 92792
    2005 Dutton Vocalion 9749
    2005 Blue Saphir 1007
    2005 Hyperion 67334
    2005 Nonesuch
    2003 Afka 436
    2003 Testament SBT1291
    2003 Nytorp Musik Nytorp6
    2002 Sony Classical 89791
    2002 Virgin Classics 562059
    2002 Centaur Records CRC2795
    2001 INA Memoire Vive 016
    1999 CRD Records 3476
    1999 Pearl 9343
    1999 Pearl 9095
    1997 Ocean Records 104
    1996 Nonesuch 79371
    1994 Virgin 545053
    1993 RCA Victor Red Seal 61439
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 64079
    1990 EMI Music Distribution 49841
    Nimbus 5396
    Nimbus 5736
    Brilliant 92792/1
    Accord 204602
    Amplitude Records 1004
    Rca Red Seal 987202
    REM 311176
    Town hall 38
    Dutton Vocalion 9756