Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Gabriel Fauré, Le jardin de Dolly, by Susan and Sarah Wang

Hearing this lovely piece for four-handed piano on WQXR sent me searching for a video; the best I could find, and I think it's superb, is this performance by the then fifteen year old twin sisters Susan and Sarah Wang (they are now in their twenties; read more about them here).

The story behind this piece is that Fauré had an affair with the singer Emma Bardac, who was later to become Madame Debussy. Bardac had a young daughter, Hélène, who was called "Dolly." Fauré adored the little girl, and composed a six part suite for four-handed piano, which he named in her honor, one part being composed for each of her birthdays. This is the third part ("Dolly's Garden") of the suite (the others are Berceuse, Mi-a-ou, Kitty-valse, Tendresse, and Le pas espagnol).

Le jardin de Dolly seems to me (perhaps not surprisingly, given my liking for seeing connections between music and visual arts) the epitome of impressionism in music; the aural equivalent of one of Monet's roughly contemporaneous Giverny paintings. For an example, consider Monet's Garden at Giverny (1895) above (E.G. Bührle Collection, Zurich; image from WebGallery of Impressionists).

Dolly later became Madame Gaston de Tinan; she died in 1985 at the age of 93.

Addendum: I've gotten lots of hits on this post from web searches for "Madame Gaston de Tinan". I decided to do my own search and found, at this website, a photo of Dolly with her later to be stepfather Claude Debussy, along with a very impressive looking borzoi, taken in 1904, when Dolly would have been eleven or twelve years old. The linked post quotes from a lecture she gave in 1972, when she would have been about eighty, preserved by the British Institute of Recorded Sound (now the National Sound Archive), in which she said that Debussy's composition was influenced by visual arts, as well as by fiction and poetry:
He had a great partiality for the paintings of Turner and Whistler and the drawings of Arthur Rackham, one of which inspired the Prelude “Les fées sont d’exquises danseuses”. Neither must we forget other titles of British inspiration: Children’s Corner, Homage to Samuel Pickwick Esq, Puck’s Dance, and finally The Blessed Damozel of the pre-Raphaelite painter and poet, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

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