Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) had a long creative life, and he was born just as Berlioz was finishing La damnation de Faust, and died three years after Berg had completed Wozzeck, and Messiaen was publishing his earliest compositions. His reputation will be as the master of French song, but his considerable body of piano music contains some of the greatest works written for the instrument, especially the Nocturnes 9-11 and the Barcarolles 7-11 composed in 1907-10. Until the works of Debussy’s maturity appeared in Faure was the most advanced French composer, his music shocking Saint-Saëns, and even managing to astonish the young Debussy with his adventurous harmonies.
Fauré’s compositional style can be divided into four periods. The earliest is the romantic style, particularly noticeable in the works from the 1870s where the spirit of Chopin hovers over the early Nocturnes. Next are the works dating from the 1880s when he became close to poets such as Verlaine. The music from these years is dreamy, languid and tortuously melodious. The third style from the 1890s is bold and assertive, and the many of the great piano works date from this period. The final style is confident, when Fauré felt able to pursue a solitary course, with a string of remarkable works including the late Nocturnes and the 5th Impromptu. The music is sparse in texture, but rich in expressive dissonances.
- Jean-Philippe Collard is one of the great exponents of this repertoire.
- "Collard, confirming the impression made by his other records, proves an excellent choice, equal to all this music's technical demands, as his refined control of the frequently shifting textures of the Op. 33 set (Nos. 1-3) shows. His identification with Faure's musical thought also appears to be complete, and this is the major point, because a long journey is travelled between Nocturne No. 1 of 1883 and No. 13, which was published in 1922" (Gramophone, June 1981).