Fauré was one of the most prominent French composers of his era. He had a deeply personal style that was to have a widespread influence on composers of the early twentieth century. His melodic and harmonic innovations had an even longer influence, namely in the teaching of harmony for most of the 20th century.
The youngest of six children, Fauré showed immense musical skill as a child and was sent to study music. Young Gabriel spent 11 years as a boarding school pupil at the newly established Ecole Niedermeyer in Paris. The school was set up to enrich the level of music in French churches. His classes included organ, plainsong and Renaissance polyphonic works as well as literature. His piano teacher, Saint-Saëns was a revelation to him and remained his friend for life. Fauré found Saint-Saëns to be a thoroughly inspiring teacher who gave his pupils an immense intellectual stimulus in the field of modern music and the arts in general.
Fauré’s first employment was as organist at St Sauveur in Rennes in 1866. The provincial life of Brittany did not suit the young musician, however it was nevertheless a period of intense composition, in which he was constantly searching for a personal style. After four years he moved back to Paris and was appointed organist at three different churches of the following four years. The three masterpieces of his youth are the First Violin Sonata, the First Piano Quartet and the Ballade for piano. It was in these years that Fauré travelled frequently. In late 1877, he went to Weimar where he met Liszt and he went to hear Wagner’s operas at Cologne and Munich.
The 1890s were a great turning point in Fauré’s life. We was well-esteemed by a group of friends and musicians at the Societé Nationale de Musique, which had been set up to encourage the performance of works by living French composers. In 1896 he became the chief organist at the Madeleine and then he succeeded Massenet as teacher of composition at the Paris Conservatoire. His pupils included Enescu, Nadia Boulanger and Ravel.