Gabriel Fauré  (1845 - 1924)

Born in Pamiers in the Ariège region, Fauré, like Ravel, had his origins in the far south-west of France. At the age of nine, he was sent to Paris to pursue his musical education at the École Niedermeyer where he remained until 1865. From 1861, the school teaching staff was joined by Camille Saint-Saëns, who became Fauré's mentor and a lifelong friend.

After many years of being passed over for prestigious appointments, Fauré finally became professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire in 1896. In January 1898 Ravel joined the composition class, impressing Fauré with his "disarming sincerity"; [Fauré's last report on Ravel in June 1900 read: "Très bon élève, laborieux et ponctuel. Nature musicale très éprise de nouveauté, avec une sincérité désarmante!"]. Ravel was formally excluded from the class in July 1900 after failing to write a satisfactory fugue, but he continued to attend as an "auditeur" and "ancien élève" until 1903.

The depth of Ravel's respect for his teacher is shown in the dedications of two of his most significant early works, Jeux d'eau and the Quatuor à cordes; both carry the inscription "À mon cher maître Gabriel Fauré".

In 1905 when the scandal surrounding Ravel's rejection for the Prix de Rome hastened the resignation of Théodore Dubois as director of the Conservatoire, Fauré was appointed to replace him, and proceeded to introduce many reforms of the institution; he held the post of Director until 1920.

In 1910, a group of young composers including Ravel launched the Société Musicale Independante (SMI), to promote a more progressive and inclusive approach to music than the more conservative Société Nationale de Musique (SNM): Fauré became the first president of the new society. Fauré's later years were marred by deafness, but paradoxically in that period he also produced a remarkable stream of fine compositions, particularly songs and chamber works.

In September 1922, Ravel wrote a further short tribute, the Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Fauré for violin and piano; this, and their long relationship as master and pupil, was warmly acknowledged in a letter from Fauré to Ravel (Orenstein, [1989], letter 207).