Skip links

Program Note: Gabriel Fauré Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 15

Please enjoy this program note for tonight’s Jeremy Denk Recital with Academy fellows. This program note was created as part of Project Resonance, the Music Academy’s unique program combining writing training with public engagement. Through this initiative, both Academy fellows and young scholars from UC Santa Barbara are given the opportunity to work on program notes and other written materials for the Summer Festival. *** Yet a single sound, a single scent, already heard or breathed long ago, may once again, both in the present and the past, be real without being present, ideal without being abstract, as soon as the permanent and habitually hidden essence of things is liberated, and our true self, which may sometimes have seemed to be long dead, but never was entirely, is reawoken and reanimated… ~ Marcel Proust, Le Temps retrouvé (Time Regained)   To say that Proust enjoyed the music of Gabriel Fauré would be an understatement. As he gushed in a letter to the composer: “I love nothing, I admire nothing, I adore nothing except your music. I have been, and am again in love with it.” For Proust, ever fascinated by the ambiguity and evanescence of human existence, Fauré was an apotheosis of his art—at once ancient yet wholly modern, fluent in medieval modes yet harmonically audacious, employing classical formal models yet thwarting expectations.
Attending and performing frequently in the many Parisian salons (where he and Proust would later meet), Fauré composed the First Piano Quartet over the course of several years, finally performing it (as pianist) in 1880. Fauré revised the work and composed a new finale for its publication in 1884. This Quartet, Op. 15, had particular influence on Proust—along with Fauré’s other early masterworks, the First Violin Sonata, Op. 13, and the Ballade, Op. 19. Proust drew on his admiration for Fauré when creating the fictional composer Vinteuil for his epic masterwork À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time). A central theme of this multi-volume novel is involuntary memory; the most famous example appears in the first volume, when the protagonist Charles Swann tastes a madeleine dipped in tea and rediscovers long-forgotten memories of his childhood. But for Proust, music was also a powerful mnemonic. A “little phrase” from a sonata by Vinteuil becomes deeply charged with the emotions of Swann’s romance with Odette, emotions that remain indelibly associated with this music years after their relationship ends. Whether Vinteuil’s “little phrase” is an actual reference to a passage in Fauré’s Violin Sonata (or even, as I like to imagine, somewhere in this Piano Quartet!) remains a mystery. But what is undeniable is the power of Fauré’s music to dredge emotions and memories from the unplumbed depths of our recollection. The past year has seen so much devastation and confusion; so much of ourselves has seemed lost to time. May this piece, as Proust concludes in the final volume of In Search of Lost Time, reawaken and reanimate our true selves. – Zerek Dodson Academy fellow, collaborative piano

Leave a comment



One of the most valuable benefits of subscribing is early access to our signature special events.
You must be logged into your account to gain early access.

Once logged in, if you have access to book the subscriber early-access event below, you will be prompted to choose your seats. Otherwise, you will be able to book this event on the single ticket on-sale date.