Composers Datebook®

Faure's Piano Quartet

Composers Datebook - Feb. 14, 2024


On today’s date in 1880, a quartet for piano and strings was premiered in Paris, with its composer, 24-year-old Gabriel Fauré, at the keyboard. Now in 1880, many Parisians knew two things about Fauré: first, that he was a talented pupil of Camille Saint-Saens; and second, that he had been engaged for years to Marianne Viardot, the daughter of legendary French singer Pauline Viardot-Garcia, and that Marianne had suddenly broken off the engagement, leaving the young man heartbroken.

French pianist Marguerite Long described the quartet’s slow movement as “the sorrowful echo of the breakup of Fauré’s engagement with Marianne Viardot,” reporting she could not hold back her tears when she once performed the work with Fauré turning pages for her.

But Faure’s friend and biographer Émile Vuillermoz would dismiss the suggestion with a loud French snort, protesting that “Fauré’s reserve always prevented him from following the example of Romantic artists who allowed the whole world to witness their personal frustrations. … He would never have allowed his private feelings to become a public spectacle!”

In any case, Fauré’s first Piano Quartet is now regarded as one of his early masterpieces, so perhaps it’s both: a breakup and break-away work.

Music Played in Today's Program

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924): Piano Quartet No. 1 (Domus Ensemble) Hyperion 66166

On This Day


  • 1602 - Italian opera composer Francesco Cavalli, in Crema;

  • 1778 - Baptism of Catalan composer and guitarist Fernando Sor, in Barcelona;

  • 1813 - Russian composer Alexander Dargomizhsky, in Troitskoye, Tula district (Julian date: Feb. 2);

  • 1882 - Polish composer and pianist Ignaz Friedman, in Podgorze, near Kraków;


  • 1829 - Bellini: opera "La Straniera" (The Stranger), in Milan;

  • 1880 - Fauré: Piano Quartet No. 1 in c, Op. 15, in Paris at a concert of the Société Nationale de la Musqique Français;

  • 1915 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 3 (Gregorian date: Feb. 27);

  • 1920 - Erik Satie: "Socrate," in Paris;

  • 1922 - Zandonai: opera "Giulietta e Romeo" (Romeo and Juliet), in Rome;

  • 1932 - Goldschmidt: opera "Der gewaltige Hahnrei" (The Magnificent Cuckold), in Mannheim at the National Theater;

  • 1940 - Cage: "Second Construction," for four percussionists, in Portland, Ore.;

  • 1953 - Orff: "Trionfo di Afrodite" (Triumph of Aphrodite), in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala; Note -- this premiere date is often listed (incorrectly) as Feb. 13, 1953, in many reference works and CD booklet notes;


  • 1865 - American premiere of J.S. Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 7 in G minor, at Boston's Chickering Hall, with Benjamin J. Lang at the piano, accompanied by members of the Mendelssohn Quintet Club; The Feb. 18 edition of Dwight's Journal commented: "A novelty, a quaint one, and as it proved quite captivating . . . Mr. Lang played it with delicacy and nicety, entering into the lightsome, racy humor of it . . . After this experiment, may we not say that the Bach bug-bear is already vanishing?";

  • 1911 - Gustav Mahler conducts the New York Philharmonic in a program featuring new music by British (Elgar, Standford) and American (Chadwick, Loeffler, MacDowell and Hadley) composers.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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