"They won't come, these poisonous harmonies! I'm trying as hard as I can but nothing will come! How lucky painters are! They have their subject, and people can talk and sing all around them and it doesn't bother them at all."
This is a comprehensive biography of the French composer Gabriel Faure for the general reader, placing his work in the context of his times. Gabriel Faure (1845-1924) is one of the best-loved French composers of his era: works such as his Requiem, "Pavane", "Dolly Suite, and "Cantique de Jean Racine" are perennial favourites. But Faure's importance runs far deeper. His music has a unique blend of vigour and restraint, sensuality and purity: an individual voice with a degree of integrity that helped him to resist the overwhelming forces - notably the music of Wagner - that held his Parisian contemporaries in thrall. His artistic independence served to inspire many of the next generation of French composers seeking to create a new Gallic identity beyond World War I. At the Paris Conservatoire, Faure's composition teaching was vital to such figures as Maurice Ravel, Nadia Boulanger and Charles Koechlin; when he ultimately became the Conservatoire's director, his reforms were the most radical the institution had yet experienced. Faure has often been thought of as a dreamy, somewhat unworldly individual; this book, however, reveals his ambition and decisiveness. Born in southern France and educated at the Ecole Niedermeyer rather than the powerful Paris Conservatoire, he struggled for years to achieve recognition from France's musical establishment, which often deemed him a dangerous outsider; in his personal life he struggled also against bouts of depression, an unsatisfactory marriage and, later, devastating deafness. Faure's life and works are explored in the context of the creative melting pot of fin-de-siecle Paris. His relationship with such figures as Saint-Saens, Liszt, Proust and Verlaine are considered in detail and help to create a portrait of this fascinating milieu. This biography, which charts Faure's long and difficult rise to fame, sets out to illuminate his individuality and reveal his enduring legacy to French music.