A profound identity: evidence of homogeneity in Gabriel Fauré’s thirteen piano Nocturnes
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In this dissertation, I argue that Fauré’s reuse and recombination of certain material musical elements throughout his life deserves recognition as a central aspect of his musical style. The inspiration for my work has primarily been drawn from the work of the musicologist Carlo Caballero, who argues that Fauré would have believed that consistency of style over time, or homogeneity, is a crucial property of any music that is truly original. Yet, few scholars have analyzed the degree to which homogeneity is manifest in Fauré’s music. More often, their focus has been directed at analyzing topics within segments of the three major periods of Fauré’s compositional output and highlighting stylistic contrasts between those periods. In contrast to this more common approach, I build on Caballero’s ideas to present a two-stage argument. First, I delineate certain criteria fundamental to defining a musical style, and observe that a straightforward classification of Fauré’s music is not easily discerned upon applying those criteria to Fauré’s music. Second, I offer support for the more novel perspective that acknowledging homogeneity itself, absent the need to classify the music materially, constitutes an important, informative perspective on Fauré's musical style. The dissertation is structured in two parts. Part I, encompassing the first three chapters, reviews the struggle to gain widespread understanding that Fauré’s music has historically faced. Chapter 1 discusses the criteria of style as they have historically been understood and used; Chapter 2 applies those criteria to Fauré’s music; and Chapter 3 explores Caballero’s assertion that Fauré’s music should in fact display homogeneity. In order to support Caballero’s claim, the following seven chapters of Part II present analytic evidence from the piano Nocturnes. Chapters 4 through 10 identify recurring usages of harmony, tonality, motivic processes, formal events, and textures by Fauré in Nocturnes dating from all three major periods of his compositional life. I conclude that a strong degree of homogeneity has been demonstrated across the piano Nocturnes, and suggest ways in which that perspective can contribute to more widespread understanding and dissemination of Fauré’s music.