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Fauré's Piano Quartet in C minor

February 21, 2020

On this week's lecture, resident lecturer Bruce Adolphe discusses Fauré's Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 15. Featuring a performance by Michael Brown, piano; Kristin Lee, violin; Jeremy Berry, viola; Estelle Choi, cello.

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Welcome to the Inside Chamber Music Podcast presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. I'm Bruce Adolphe Resident Lecturer at CMS, where I started the lecture series in 1992. In 2011, we began livestreaming the lectures on our website. The audio for this podcast comes from the ever growing archive of videos made available live and on demand ChamberMusicSociety.org.

We look at the music from a compositional perspective and find parallels in novels, plays and poetry. Plus, we explore historical context and with live musicians in the studio during the lectures, we experiment with performance issues. Today's lecture features Fauré's Piano Quartet Number One in C Minor, Opus 15. Originally recorded February 28, 2018.

Hello, everybody. You know, in New York, people are always talking about education. Where to send people to school, kids to school, and what it should cost. Should it be privatized? Don't worry, we're getting to Fauré. But imagine this, a school, a boarding school where you can focus on music and you would get a complete education.

And the room and the board were free because the government paid for it. All the lessons were free, the tuition was free. And you can have a kid there from any age until it was time to leave. Well, this is what the education of Fauré was. He went to a boarding school from age nine, the same school, to 20.

And it was a strange place, but he he eventually loved it there. And all of his best friends in his life, many of them were there. There are two kinds of best friends that he had, I guess, from the boarding school and then from Wednesdays or Thursdays or Saturday salons in Paris, where he met everybody else. Which was a lot of people, but the boarding schools were interesting.

It was called the Niedermayer School. And the reason I'm going to talk about it a little bit is that Fauré's education really played into who he became as a composer. And it's strange that some other composers who went there, they weren't affected as much as Fauré. But his whole language, his whole view of music was deeply affected by his experiences there.

But first, I want to describe the school a little bit. It was one building with a courtyard and it was in Paris. And he was, Fauré was from Foix, a little town called Foix. And Foix was, excuse me, was about three days coach ride to Paris. So he didn't see his parents very much, for most of that time except in the summer. And all the kids who stayed there and, again, he stayed there from 9 to 20.

So it wasn't always the same experience, but once a week they were allowed to go out and meet someone. That person could either be a relative or a correspondent, and that meant someone appointed by your relatives or your family to meet them because they lived in Paris. His very first letter ever written was Fauré writing to his correspondent.

"You don't have to meet with me. I've arranged for a relative to come see me, and I can say without fear that my piano playing has been accepted as okay here." Now, you should know that this school had no audition. You could just go. So it meant that your parents decided that music should be your focus and you could go for free and stay there for a very long time.

And when you got out, hopefully you would be what they wanted you to be. Not your parents. The school. Which was a professional church organist. That was what they wanted. That's why it was all paid for. Initially, you had to be a Christian to go to the school, but they changed it and you could be anything you want as long as you wanted to be a church organist.

That was a little complex, but in fact, they didn't insist that you be a church organist. They just trained you to be one. And if you wanted to do that when you got out, they would get you a job. So almost everybody assisted all the major organists at the major churches. So, for example, one of the teachers who was only ten years older or so than Fauré was Saint-Saëns.

And he was Fauré's mentor, became his friend, and he helped him throughout his career. He even pulled strings to help Fauré become the director of the Paris Conservatory in 1905, which is a long way later because he was born in 1945. So they stayed friends all the way through until the, actually until Saint-Saëns died. Well, back to the school.

So there was one practice room with 20 pianos. Now, I'm not sure why they did this, but it seemed like there were only two possible reasons. They had no choice because they didn't have rooms that you could put pianos in, but this one big room. And they did everything in that room except the organ room, which had a small, not very good organ, which was the main point of the school.

And they all were supposed to practice on their 20 pianos and if they weren't practicing around the edges of the room were desks to study Latin and French history and things like that. So I managed to find a wonderful anecdote, which I'm going to tell from over here, because I'm going to enlist Michael in this anecdote. What are you going to do when you have 20 boys playing the piano at one time?

So one of the things that happened was they occasionally would pull a prank. And we know of one prank because it was such a good one that they did it a number of times and it was written down by numbers of people. So we know this is a true prank from the Niedermayer School. One kid would start playing Weber's Perpetual Motion from his sonata, which starts like this. Very quietly. (Music)

And as that would happen, another kid would start to play it on another piano, and then there would be four or five kids, and eventually 20 kids.

All playing the same thing, getting louder and louder and louder. All 20 of them until the door opened.

And in came Niedermayer. And he said, "What is going on in here? But perhaps I'm mistaken, but I heard a noise." And then they would all be very quiet and start to practice and do sacred music, which was what they were supposed to be practicing and studying Latin. And he would leave. And, of course, this was hilarious.

Now, when Saint-Saëns came to teach at the school, thank you, Michael, by the way, for portraying all 20 pianists. When Saint-Saëns came to the school, he was hired as a piano teacher, and he was a great pianist and he was a child prodigy, Saint-Saëns, because he was able to play practically the complete repertoire at that time from memory as a child.

Like he would go on stage, this is Saint-Saëns, and he would say, "What would you like to hear?" And people would say, "Prelude in Fugue of Bach from the second book this and then a Beethoven sonata." And he knew everything. So he was a really good teacher. And when he realized that the school wasn't really teaching anything modern at all, by modern, at this point we mean Schumann and Wagner and things like that.

Well, I mean, that was modern, right? So Fauré was a kid born in 1945. And Chopin and things like this. So by modern, I meant anything recent that might not have crept into the church repertoire, which was quite a lot. Saint-Saëns would keep his piano students all together after class and give them a taste of Schumann and Wagner and Chopin and Liszt.

And he could play it all, and then he would get the scores. And so all of them had this incredible education from Saint-Saëns. At the same time, what they were learning was not being learned by anybody else in France. In other words, they learned the old church modes. They studied them deeply. They learned the Latin, that went with it all the modes and how to use them in a new way, which I'll get to in a moment.

They learned how to improvise at the organ with elaborate chromatic romantic harmony, which was something that just emerged. It was separate from everyone else's education. And they sang a lot of Renaissance music every single day. Now, most people at that time in the mid-century, 19th century in France and most of Europe, unless they were scholars, they didn't know any Renaissance music.

Remember from the Brahms lecture that Brahms was discovering this music himself, and he found Renaissance music, edited it and conducted it. And because he was editing and conducting Renaissance music, he became influenced by the rhythms which separated from the bar line and from the meter. So Brahms had to discover it himself. Fauré did not. This is what he was taught from age nine. In fact, many years later, when Fauré was a famous, older composer that everyone looked up to, he, if he ran into his friends, someone he taught someone who taught him or a friend from the Niedermayer School they would launch into their vision of this.

I'm going to play it for you. I'm sure they didn't sing it like this, but here we go. (singing)

Well, you get the idea. You might think that's strange. How could they launch into that? But I know exactly what that feels like because I went to a camp as a kid called Kin Haven Music School in Vermont. And everyone who went there when they see each other, if there are enough of us, we launch into Renaissance madrigals also. Not that one, but we do.

Fair Phyllis I saw a sitting on- anyone here go to Kin Haven? Okay, I'm ready to sing when you were. We all learned all those songs. So he grew up with this singing. And of course, he became a composer whose music very quickly, right from the beginning, his music had this rhythmic freedom and this sense of line and harmonic complexity, all that came from that school.

However, many people went to that school who did not end up writing in an interesting way. They became fairly conventional. His best friends were, for example, André Messager and if you know your French operetta, which you may not, he wrote a lot of them, and they're very charming, light, conventional, entertaining little operettas. But they didn't show any of the influence of these things.

Another friend of his was named Gigout and, let's see, Albert Gigout and he, or not Albert. Let me see. I think it may not be Albert. Ah, Eugène. Eugène Gigout. He is completely forgotten. And I'm sure, and I hope you forget him soon, because, basically, he only wrote very boring organ music. And really, I looked. I found a lot of it.

I was looking for something good and it was pretty dull, but they would get together and sing that. And then there was another friend of his, Périlhou. Périlhou. This is an example, I found a piece of his. This is, you can see, it's the original manuscript. Well, it's, actually, it's a printed copy from the computer of an edition from that time that somebody wrote fingerings in.

But let me just play a moment of this because this is an example of another friend of his who studied there. (music) Et cetera. It shows an influence of Renaissance music. But but it doesn't show- what's the matter? I'm going to recycle that. It doesn't show any like originality. And, you know, with Fauré, you don't have to wait eight bars and wonder if it's ever going to happen.

It never happens in that piece. Alright. So let's start with rhythm. We're going to look at the beginning of this piece because the rhythm that Fauré writes, in general, can easily just sound normal to people without, they don't realize what he's doing because he does, some of it's mostly, it's so subtle. It's not like Brahms where we were able to hear those rhythms and right away think, "Oh, wow, that's crazy rhythms he's doing there."

Or with Janacek, where the rhythms are unique, nobody does rhythm like Janacek, and he had a whole theory of rhythm. With Fauré, it's very subtle. In fact, Fauré's reputation suffered for a long time as being a salon- you have another 2 minutes. As a salon composer. Meaning somebody who dabbled in society.

He his pieces were mostly played at these big parties where all of the local artists and and aristocrats and well-connected people would come and that his music was entertaining and nothing else. But it's really not so simple. Of course, now we appreciate him as a great composer, but it took a long time because of his subtlety. But I want to say one thing about the salons where he met everybody. Since I told you about his school, he went from a school like that, a bunch of boys learning Latin and trying to be organists, to society where he would go on Wednesdays to one princess's place in on Thursdays to another princess' place.

And the most famous salons of that time are the Princess Polignac. You may have heard of her, but I'll tell you a little bit about it because it's really great. Princess Polignac funded almost all of the arts going on in France at that time. She didn't do it by herself, but she had her hand in everything and when he would go, I tried to make a list of who came to these parties.

Here we go. This is over many years. Aside from Debussy and Ravel and Fauré, other composers were Stravinsky, Satie, Milhaud, Poulenc, Francais, Kurt Weill, you don't expect. Tremonti Ferre, Manuel de Falla and also Jean Cocteau, Claude Monet, Sergei Diaghilev, Colette, Isidora, Duncan and of course, Marcel Proust. They all knew each other because they all went to these parties all the time.

And the parties and the culture of the salon that you might read in Remembrance of Things Past of Proust is mostly based on this, and the composer VinteiulI, who is in that book, in those novels is mostly Fauré. There are some other people, but Fauré is actually mentioned quite a few times and also sometimes VinteiulI is described and it's a perfect description of Fauré.

And if I might get to some of those moments later. But what's really great about Princesse Edmond de Polignac is that her real name was Winnaretta Singer. She was an American. She was the daughter of Isaac Singer, the sewing machine guy. She was a lesbian, moved to Paris and married a prince who was gay.

And that's what's called a lavender marriage. You might have heard that expression. A lavender marriage means that either one or both of the partners are homosexual and they are married because of the pressures from society, but also because they feel like they can team up and do something which they did. They teamed up and they supported the arts and they supported medicine, they supported research.

In fact, at one point the Princess Polignac or Singer, during World War One, she helped Madame Curie directly, and she helped convert private limousines into mobile radiology units. So she did everything. I mean, she was really a great, great figure. So it is there that he met his other set of friends, but, so his music is what I'm getting to.

His music is entertaining. People loved it. They fell in love with it right away. And it's very beautiful. But it isn't only entertaining and only lyrical and charming. It's much more than that. And I'm going to show you that right away. His rhythmic complexity is like Brahms also influenced by the Renaissance, but it has a really strange personal quality.

So let's hear the opening. Let's see. Let's play the real opening. The actual opening. (music) Okay. All right. Thank you. Thank you. I hate to stop you. It's very hard. I know it must feel awful, right? Okay. Now, I'm going to ask him to do the real thing again. And I want you to figure out, tap your foot to your, internal foot...

You can actually tap your foot or your one two or you could use your hands, but try to figure out, is it in two? Is it in three? Those are the two questions. Is it in two like this? One, two, one or three, one, two, three. And you think that's an easy question, but you might find it's not. Well, let's try it. (music)

Okay. All right. Great. Great. It was easier that time. Right? Okay. How many think two?

You're afraid to raise your- no, don't be afraid. Okay. I'm okay. And how many think three? Okay. I would say we have about an equal number of two, three and nothing.

That's about right. That's about right. Okay, now, before I answer the question. It isn't easy. If this were just in two or three in a way that you could hear, obviously, I think all the hands would go up. But it's confusing, actually. You might have felt uncomfortable and that, it is uncomfortable. So let's play it. I wrote it out in straight two.

Okay? I didn't change it that much, but I left, your parts are identical except that I wrote it in two, four, four them. (singing) And your part is a little different. Okay. And let's play a little softer in the string so we can hear the very heavy two in the piano. (music) Okay, so that was clearly in two.

That wasn't quite what you were hearing. Now let's go back to the original for a moment and I'm going to- it's actually written in three, but the pulses are mostly in two. So you are hearing both two and three. At certain points, the two seems more obvious and other points the three. So I'm going to conduct it for you in three while they play what he wrote.

And you'll see that it's, sometimes it's very weird.

One, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three.

One, two, three, one, two, three, one, two. Okay, now, okay. You see, sometimes that feels right and sometimes it doesn't feel right. Now, play the same thing. The way he wrote it. I'm going to conduct it in two and you'll see a lot of the melody, at least the melody, sounds totally like it's in two for a while. (music)

Two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two.

Okay, so, the melody is in two. The piano accompaniment, let's hear the piano alone, and it's going to really be a little disturbing. (music) Okay. That's already confusing because you can't see what he has on the page. He's doing off beats. I'll clap you come in when you want one, two, three. (music) Okay. So you get the point right away.

Why does he do this? Why doesn't he just write it in two? The tune is in two. So I wrote the tune out as a different version in three. You have to change it so that it feels like it's in three. So I gave them just a phrase like that. You want to try that? (music)

One, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three, one two, three.

See, that sounds like three, doesn't it? Sounds like a waltz. Do that one more time because I think then we'll be done with this passage. But it's really complex. (music)

One, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three. Okay.

So what Fauré is doing is something that he learned, as I said, from Renaissance choral music, but he also learned it in a place that Brahms did not. This kind of idea is that because that is Gregorian chant. Yeah, what happened here? It slipped off? Oh, this is a period microphone. 1845. Yeah. You know they don't use period instruments in the operating room, you understand?

Okay. Okay. So he also learned Gregorian chant, and in Gregorian chant, there is no meter. It's important to remember that one of the big discoveries for composers in the 19th century was music that we now know and have easy access to, which is renaissance and medieval music and even earlier music. And what the discovery that shocked them and inspired them, gave them new ideas, was partly rhythmical, which that there was music before major and minor.

And in three, four and two, four. There was music before all of that evolved, because music is not a given. There's no one way to do it. You know, in India, which I like to talk about Indian rhythm occasionally, in India, there's no notation for the music and the way you learn rhythm, at least in southern India, the Carnatic music is all in groupings. Groupings of fours and threes and twos and five, basically threes and twos and fours, which then connect to other things.

And you use words which is very similar to contemporary music here now in a modern Western classical music. So instead of thinking of two or three, you might think (singing) which is one, two, three, four, one, two, three, one, two, three, four. Or (singing) one, two, three, four, one, two. Or (singing) something like that.

If you count that, it's terrible, but if you think in groups and wow, we're having a little microphone issue. Are you going to replace my microphone? No. Okay, fine. I think it's- even higher? I don't know if it can go any higher.

This is Grace. What do you think? I know. It's up there. Okay, so going back, for Fauré, he grew up singing music that didn't have time signatures where the only pulse was based on words like in Gregorian chant. You take the chant out, the actual words out of the chant and you have no rhythm. You don't know what to do because that's where the rhythm comes from.

All right. So let's go on a little bit to some other great rhythmical moments and then we're going to look at some other aspects of this. Let's take a look at, right, bar 18. Now, here the tune, this is is still right at the beginning of the piece. The tune comes back, but this time the tune is instead of all of them, the strings playing the melody in unison.

Which was interesting because Fauré likes to do unison string writing in small groups, which can be very problematic because, you know, three, four violins playing the same line is easy. One violin and one viola playing the same thing, or one cello. If it's two, it's hard of three, it's a little better. And sometimes there's in some of his pieces, like the viola in the cello, play a line in complete unison, and it's asking for trouble.

But now, at this bar, the violin plays the tune alone. And we get a new baseline, a new accompaniment in the piano, and a new series of contrapuntal lines in the viola and the cello. Let's do the violin pick up into 18. (music) Okay, just that phrase. Now, there's so much happening emotionally in there because of the rhythm.

Let's hear just the baseline in the piano. Can you play it basically in three, the way he wrote it with a little emphasis in three. (music) But even though that works, it's actually, in terms of the highs and the lows in the intervals it's really in two. Let's play that baseline with the action every in two, four. (music) It's really in groups of two.

But he knows that and it actually is multivalent. You hear three and two. You know? So, because of the way he spaces it. Now, let's hear that again just as written and if you can, listen to the baseline. Maybe bring that out a little more than you normally would. The tune and the baseline, especially, because that, his training, which was similar to Brahms in this one area, is that to write a tune and a baseline, that's the main thing.

Everything else is either decorative or contrapuntal or elaborating the harmony. But that bass and that top tune have to be very secure. (music) So okay, great. Now let's look at another rhythmic spot and then we're going to start looking at harmony. An amazing thing happens at 61. Let's just listen to it first. Let's play from 61 to, oh, like 66. (music) Ah, wait, wait, wait.

Sorry, 62 I meant. That's where it begins. (music) Okay, great, great. Thank you. Let me just point out something here. So we're used to hearing it in two, right? But the tune originally went (music) and it went up somewhere. But here it goes... (music) Wait a minute. What's interesting about that is we have (music) that makes you feel like it's two. But also, if you look at each measure, we have one, two, three and one, two, three.

Alright? It's trickier than it seems because it's so pretty. I know people like that. So this is a tune, actually, Fauré knew a lot of people like that. And in fact, Fauré, I hate to say this, but Fauré and Brahms and Janacek, all had a lot of really big trouble with women and not such great behavior. Fauré, and this does relate to the rhythmic confusion, but also more than that, it relates to the harmonic lack of commitment to a key.

This is a theory, but it's all theory. So, I mean, Fauré you know, I mentioned that Janacek married a very, very young girl. She was 16. And he, I think I told you, had many affairs, and especially with the intimate letters, he had a relationship in his mind, anyway, with a woman who was 38 years younger than he was.

And he wrote most of his great music between 62 and 74. With Fauré, his first true love, whom he proposed to who was the daughter of Pauline Viardot, who was a famous person in the music world, a singer. She broke it off. She broke off the engagement because she became both, as she said in a letter or her mother said, she became out of love and fearful.

So that's a good combination. So she called it off. And then he married someone else. And the person that he married, he stayed married to her for his whole life. But he had many, many, many affairs all of the time and everyone knew about it. But this was France in the 19th century with these people all meeting and his affairs were described.

Let's see, here's an example and then we'll get back to the music. Here's a description of Fauré. "An eminent musician who, for his own part was exclusively and passionately a lover of women." What's interesting about that is "exclusively." This is said by a character in Memories of Thing Past, In Search of Time Past of Proust. So it's not actually said by real person or was it?

It might have been said by someone at one of those parties. It might have been said by Proust. Okay, we have to get back to this now. So, we have two ways of hearing this because of the structure of the tune. We have one, two, one, two. But because if you look at each bar, we have a repetition of three. (music)

So each bar has a phrase that makes sense in three. But when you hear it, you sort of feel like it's in two. And now let's hear the piano accompaniment to that, which is actually an accompaniment. Sorry. Go ahead. (music) Okay. So, again, it's A, B, A, harmonically, but it's also A, B, A, B and that sort of thing in terms of the rhythmic structure.

Play that one more time and I'll conduct in two. (music) Okay, and I'll do it in three and it makes a different kind of sense. (music) It makes sense both ways. So there's not a lot of music like this. Brahms's music is often in threes against twos, but it's clear because what, Brahms always puts it right out in front of you and it actually is more disruptive of the texture.

With Fauré, it's not disruptive because to him, Gregorian chant, for example, just continually flows till it's over and there's no rhythm to listen to. And a lot of the Renaissance polyphony that he heard was, in order to sing it, which is not like chamber music. It's different. It's all breathing and long phrases. Or he was learning to improvise on the organ.

And when you improvise on your organ, it's not like a piano. You don't really take your hands off the thing, you know, you keep your hands there and you're improvising. And, you know, organ has certain techniques that hardly ever get used on the piano. Like, for example, you play a chord and you slide this finger onto that key and move your finger over here.

You slide across keys so that you don't have to let go of them. If you want to on the piano, go from here to here, you can just lift your hand there's and not much space. (music) You can use the pedal to connect it better, but on the organ, when you move, you would for the lowest note, you can't see what I'm doing, I realize.

You would take one finger here and I'm changing fingers. You can hear that it doesn't move. And then I... So, I'm crawling around like this. It's a totally different way of playing. So that seamlessness affects his composing as well. Now, let's talk about harmony for a moment or maybe for a very long time. The thing about harmony is the harmony that he was taught was completely different.

And how could that be? What does that mean? You know, even with the same chords on the piano, let's say, the way it's explained and the way it is described theoretically can completely change your perception of what you're supposed to be doing. It seems to me like the only person who really listened to those teachers was Fauré, because he's the only one who took what they taught and turned it into a musical style.

When you hear Messager's music and the friends I mentioned, you know, I don't want to say their names again. Here they are. Gigout. You know, all these people I can never remember their names, but there's no music to listen to. I mean, it is true that as obscure as these people are, you can still download their music for free now.

Anyway, so the thing is, I'm going to try to give you three ways to understand harmony. It's going to be simple at some level, and it might start to feel strange. But the third way will be how he was taught. Basically, let's just say we take the note C. In the early Baroque period, the chords were thought of as being intervals above a note.

So here's a C. (music) If I write five three, I play (music) one, two, three, four, five. If I write six four two, I write six, four, two. I don't necessarily have a name for that chord. It's a six, four, two over C. Why not? It works. If I say flat the six, four, two, (music) I do that. If I want to say one, three, five, seven, flat to seven. If I want to say flat the third of the seven, I go, I write the C and I write a seven with a flat. Five.

I don't have to write the five because everyone knows there's a five. Three with a flat. I get that. I want to flat the five. Okay. So the point of that is it's kind of a shorthand. People still use shorthand all the time. A jazz player will play a C six chord, that's C with a six. To the next kind of theory that came along, which started with Rameau.

So it's French. Now, when I say it's French, I mean that the theory was first articulated by Rameau in France and other people, and he did steal things from other French people and it doesn't matter. But he put the big book of harmony together. That changed something very fundamental. That's a joke. Fundamental. It's a little harmony joke. Okay.

Let me just say that one more time. No, okay. So he thought that's not just a note with chords. (music) It's a C and this chord with an E is also a C chord. It's just inverted. In other words, he said, this is all a C chord. It doesn't matter what note's on the bottom. Whereas to an early Baroque player, this is an E six, three. To Rameau it is not an E six, three.

It's a C major chord up on the E, moved up. So in other words, what Rameau did was he didn't change all the music that was written. He was just talking about a way to think about it compositionally. Instead of thinking of a shorthand, he had a theory that was more cohesive, where chords had identity separate from shorthand notation.

It was really a big deal, but, still, it was, it had a lot to do with the key. So let's say you're in C major. (music) If you throw in a B flat, you are not in C major anymore because there is no B flat in C major. You are moving to, let's say, F. That was something that everyone agreed upon in European music at that time.

So notes were in a key or they were foreign notes, and if you use them, you were probably going into another key. It's pretty simple. It can be very complex how to use it. But the basic idea is that there are diatonic notes in a key and those that are not. Well, at the Niedermayer school, it was totally different.

Janacek would have loved it. He wasn't educated in France. He never heard any of this stuff. He really would have liked it. They talked about, and when I say they, it started with Niedermayer himself. And then he died very young at 32, and he was replaced by somebody who then was replaced by a guy named Gustav Lefevre.

And Lefevre created a huge, huge harmony book, which we still have, and you can get it for free online. And in this book, chords, anything can be done to the chords because it's all coloristic. Which is very French. So in other words, we think of this as C major and this is C minor and they're in different keys.

But for Brahms you could use them both. In the Niedermayer school, these are all colorations of C. You can use them any time. You don't worry about the key. This is a C chord. This is a C chord. This is a C augmented chord. But listen to this. This, here's C major. If you flap that and sharp that, that's still C. That's actually in A-flat major chord to our ears. (music)

But he said it's not. It's an E-flat in a G sharp which can go right back or can go like this, which is what he wrote. It gets even weirder. This is a chord that he writes there. That's quite dissonant. He says all it is is a flat, you know, a third. A major seventh and a raised fifth. And it's a great way, he says, to go here.

So you go... (music) But you don't do it just like that. You go, you know... (music) This, you only hear in passing. You don't just... (music) like that, but it gets even more bizarre than that, actually. Listen to this chord. You take the ninth. (music) Now, a ninth in Beethoven's time, that was very dissonant. He has a piece... Here's here's a chord. (music)

One, three, five, seven, nine. Okay, that's a flat nine. He does this in one of his pieces. You know what that is? Yeah, yeah, yeah. The E minor Sonata. He plays it over and over because it's so painful, that dissonance. And he uses it, you know, Beethoven uses harmony very sparingly. If he has a dissonant thing, he's going to sit on it and hammer it and say, "That is dissonant."

And then he's going to go back to being consonant. But Fauré? Well, how many affairs in a year? So, dissonance for him is, "Well, that's over already. I'm sorry." You know, a little dissonance. A little dissonance here. A key there. A key here. "Well, I'm not going to be in that key. I'm just visiting." Beethoven. Never had that kind of situation.

He might have written very different music. But look at this chord. You take the ninth. (music) You flat the third, which is a chord, then you flat the fifth. And this he considers a chord, which he says should resolve like this. (music) In there is a B minor chord if you want to separate them out, which we don't hear that way. A B major chord. A C diminished chord.

Here's another one of his chords. (music) Now, that sounds really French, but it's, and it gives you whole tones. Debussy was influenced by Fauré and then Fauré was influenced by Debussy. Kind of like if Fauré is like Haydn and Debussy's like Mozart. There was Haydn first, then Mozart and then Haydn again. And Mozart wrote a ton of music and died.

And that's basically true with Fauré and Debussy as well. So, he says, in his harmony book that you take a major chord, (music) make a seventh, a ninth, flat the fifth, and you have this, which is whole tones. But to him it's just a chord that can go. (music)

Or can go other places. Or... (music)

You can go anywhere as long as he's home at night. And don't forget, you can experiment really well when there are 20 people playing the piano in the same room. Here's an incredible chord. It really is amazing to me. You take a simple major sevenths chord, but you flat the fifth. (music) Now, these chords don't sound like the music of that time. (music) It's more like that.

So the harmonies are very dense and rich and changeable and they tend to be inharmonic. So as far as inharmonic music goes, see, I'm looking for my iPod. It's right next to yours. As far as inharmonic music goes, again, I talked about it a lot with Janacek. With Fauré, it's constant inharmonic writing so that (music) here's a B-flat and he can go because of his theory training, the way he learned to this chord, which is very far away.

But he can go back to the key he started. He can then go stay here, flat a note. and take this note and go to that key. In other words, it's, everything's possible to move from one place to the other. You don't have to know why you're there as long as something connects to something else. You know, I didn't succeed at this, but I tried doing something.

I'll share a little of it with you. I asked the question, can you take inharmonicism and do it with language? With words? It's not easy. It starts to sound like James Joyce though. And the idea is that a word can sound like another word or part of another word. That's what inharmonicism is.

So you play a chord and a note in there will be kept into a new chord. And that can remind you of how a chord sounds in another key and you just keep moving around. So I gave up in the middle of this, but here we go. I too I saw in half way, ugh, it's already hard to read.

I too I saw in half way too cumbersome they my prints are in the mail behave your clarinet and come over a certain amount. And I stopped. But you see, it's just the words sound. I could be either I or eye and saw could be a saw. So I just let it go and try to finish the sentence. It's impossible to understand, but that's because words are about specific meaning.

Here, he's removed the function of the harmonies completely. But I shouldn't say completely. For long stretches it's removed and then it always comes back. So let's take a look at some of that kind of writing. Well, God, there are so many places. Let me think. What is my favorite? Well, okay, this chord, (music) which is diminished. Sorry, it's not. I'm playing the wrong thing. Here we go.

It's half diminished. This D sharp and this B stay there. And we go to this chord and then this stays there and we go to that chord and we finally resolve. So what's interesting about that is that the first part of it is not so unusual, especially since Wagner was established and he learned Wagner in school.

But then this note stays as a sharp in this chord where it normally wouldn't be. (music) It would normally be here. So he does... (music) See, and then he lowers one. And this is also typical. He thinks, "Here, this is going to be..." I know how hard this can be if you haven't studied harmony. So another way to look at this is at this point, the question is, "How many chords are available to this little melody?"

I'm going to do all of them or a lot of them. It's just like the thing with his relationships, right? "How many people are available? How much time do I have?" So, this is exactly what he does. You see something like (music) and out of context, he could say... (music) But he could say... (music) Or he could say... (music) Or... (music) Or in other words, there are so many possibilities because he grew up with the idea that those notes just can be colored any way you want.

A big difference between French musicianship and German musicianship in the 19th century, maybe early 20th century was that German, and this won't be surprising. German music was much more tied to function, to what it meant. What does that chord mean and why is it there? In French, it was more surface. It's a nice color. Makes perfect sense. It fits with the food and the clothes and the philosophy and everything else.

So orchestration too. A German composer in the 18th and 19th century will give a line to an oboe because it's a new line and it's a new melody. And then it goes to the horn to introduce a new section or a change of key, or to introduce a new idea. In French music, it goes to the oboe because it's nice.

"It's a nice sound, you know? I just use the oboe. What's the matter?" And this was a huge difference between them. Now, Fauré was actually on the fence about this. He was a little critical. He once wrote in a letter that he was in Italy and went to a concert where they played three Beethoven symphonies in one evening.

When it was over, he said it made him ashamed of so many French composers who only write coloristic music. He said the substance in the Beethoven was so deep and it's so profound and so many of his colleagues, not himself, but so many of his colleagues, just used color and it's just beautiful textures. But where's the music?

You know? And that was the criticism. And that argument was something Fauré, which is why, you know, Aaron Copland, he wrote a little article about Fauré. And he called him, he's the one who coined the phrase, "The French Brahms." What he meant was that he had a lot of these, he concentrated on instrumental music and chamber music, and that his music had this kind of depth of thought and this rhythmic complexity and this chromaticism that reminded him of Brahms, but he's French.

So it's this sort of French Brahms. Let me see if I can find another spot to make it clear. I realized, as I'm talking about how complex this can be. Ah, here's a wonderful thing. The tune originally (music) was, the chords were pretty straightforward at the beginning. And this note was the tonic. Later on, it comes back like this. (music)

So this is not the tonic. It's the sixth above the tonic. Now, let me see if I can explain this difference of mentality. To Fauré, that's just six above the key, the chord. To a jazz musician, that's also just six above. It doesn't change the chord. It's an E-flat chord and there's a... you can end a piece like that. (music)

But that was the sixth, the same note. But to German composers at that time, and earlier music, (music) this is actually the root of the chord. You remember this business of turning the chords around? This is not an added sixth. It's a root. And they just meant that you could stack it in thirds. So it was a completely different way of looking at harmony. That meant, for a composer to do this as a color, (music) like Fauré... That was only possible because of a completely different mindset from German composers.

The mindset was a note is a color. A note is a texture. It's part of an added element. It is not a restructuring. It is not function. I suppose, you know, there are some apartments in New York now where there's a shower in the bathroom. Have you heard about this? They're much cheaper. And the reason they're there is that the plumbing is easier to do if all the water stuff, most of it anyway, is in one place.

So everything's very close together. If it has water. There's a relationship to this which is that it's not about function, it's about convenience. And it's about just adding to a situation to make it work. But I like the other metaphor of his affairs better, frankly. Okay. I never metaphor I didn't try. Now, at one point, this combines strange harmony with, actually, I'm going to get you guys to play this. Bar 112. Actually let's start at bar 108. 108.

Here, two things are going on. It's shifting inharmonically between keys so rapidly that, again, it's like no commitment to a key, but it's all surface-y color. At the same time is the tune... (singing) Has always been on the beat like this. (singing) And our question was, is it in two or three? But now the tune is in the middle of the bar, one, two and three.

It's all off now. Okay, so let's try some of that. (music) Okay. Now, that was beautiful. And we'll come right back to that. One thing that happens here, (music) this is known as dissonance because we, he still has this in the bass, but then it gives in in the middle of the B. But then this note comes in and we end up in another key.

If you can just hear this, he's playing a C-sharp major chord. This is an F sharp minor. And then the G sharp and the E sharp are translated, this is inharmonic, into an F and A-flat and a C and we get a key of F minor. These chord, these keys are not normally anywhere near each other. F sharp minor and F minor.

That's because- on the guitar, they're right next to each other and on the piano they seem to be next to each other. But keys are actually structured in fifths like violin strings. If you think of it this way, and I know this is getting a little complicated, but all of it's on your phone if you look up harmony. Probably Wikipedia has this.

I don't know if I haven't checked, but if you're in C major, the next key up is G because you add one sharp. That's five notes up. It's only one note different, F sharp, it's five up. If you want to go down, you add a flat B-flat and it's five, it's F major. So every time you change one note in a scale, you're moving up in a fifth or down in a fifth.

That's until you've changed all seven. So F sharp minor is really three sharps and F minor is four flats. They are not near each other. You see, that's, to get from three sharps to four flats. Well, that reminds me of something. Fauré, when he was the director of the conservatory, knew that he was supposed to be dignified and arrive in a cab.

But he took the metro and got out two stops early and hailed a cab because he didn't want to spend the money. He didn't see the point. So he took the metro, which was around at that time in 19, early 20th century, and he would always get out and then get in a cab so he could arrive the way they expected him to arrive.

That's not unlike the music also, because in the metro he's going quickly by all these stops without stopping anywhere. And then he gets in the cab and does the cadence. It's just he arrives. When he finally gets to C minor, he's in a cab. I see Michael likes that one, so I feel good about that. Okay, good. Okay, let's actually think about that.

Let's hear, again, from 108 to... and we'll go a little past 116 because what is he combines his first and second theme. By the way, the second theme, which we haven't even heard yet, is very simple. The rhythm is clear as can be and it doesn't have any difficult harmonies because he wasn't, you know, he knew this was going to be played, for example, at a salon.

So he did all his wild, intense key changes and his flirtations with foreign keys and his rhythmic complexity. And then you could relax for a while and go, "Whoa, what was that?" And then, "Oh, there's a pretty tune," and you feel better, you know, have a glass of wine, and then it starts again. And then at one point he combines the two things.

Let's just hear a little bit of the second theme. No, let's do what we just said first and then I'll point out when the second theme is combined with the first. So 108. (music) second theme. First theme. Second theme. First theme. Okay. Alright, thank you. Thank you. Okay. Very good. Thank you. It's really hard to stop them. Wow.

It's one of the differences between technology and human beings, in case you were wondering, I was just going to press something, but nothing happened. I have to tell you, I was in Colorado doing something and I saw a child, like a six year-old, touching a window to try to get things to happen. And, you know, I thought that was a joke, but it was really, it was amazing.

Okay. Maybe you look like you've tried that. No. Right? You say, "What's wrong with that?" Okay. All right. So before we hear the piece, I have to read just one or two things to you. Fauré got one of the best letters you can want as a composer, and I will read you some of this letter.

"Sir, not only do I like, admire, indeed, adore your music, I have for some time been and continue to be in love with it. Long before you met me, you used to thank me with a smile at concerts or gatherings after my noisy enthusiasm had coaxed a fifth bow out of your contemptuous indifference to success. The other evening I took my first intoxicating draft of your song, The Undying Fragrance, and it is a dangerous intoxication for I have been back every day to hear it since.

At least it is a clear sighted intoxication for I told Renaldo things about that fragrance that he found fitting even from the musical standpoint. And God knows how harshly he judges musical views of men of letters. And sir, that is but 100th part of what I would tell you for I know your work well enough to fill a 300 page book on the subject, yet it is 100 times more than my shyness would ever have come out with.

However, you're having entertained the extraordinary notion that I was ever vexed with you gives me leave to offer these initial outpourings. For that, I am grateful to you and I beg you to be so good as to accept that gratitude together with my humble respects. Marcel Proust." Yeah, that's pretty good. Alright, I think it's time to hear this music.

He was a better friend to him in the end than Gigout. (music) We hope you enjoyed the podcast. Visit ChamberMusicSociet.org to watch videos of these lectures well as masterclasses and concert performances. And while you're there, check out the calendar of upcoming Chamber Music Society events in New York and around the world. We'll be back in two weeks with another Inside Chamber Music podcast.