Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) has been called the foremost French composer of his generation — a daring assertion given that among his contemporaries were Debussy, Ravel and Gounod, to name only a handful of the big shots of French 19th- and early 20th–century music. But the case can be justified for Fauré, whose extraordinary gifts in the realms of keyboard, chamber and choral music were unequaled. A choral conductor and organist by profession — for many years he made ends meet by moonlighting — Fauré had a particular genius for vocal harmony, which, when he applied it to chamber music, resulted in works of great depth and richness. Among his greatest compositions for chamber ensemble is the Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 15, an amazing synthesis of what, in the tumultuous midst of the French Revolution in music — Impressionism — would have been considered old and new: singing melodic lines that make the piano and cello sound like human voices, with instrumental choral accompaniment powered by the energetic and often jolting rhythms and harmonic patterns of the bold modern music scene. This week, Chamber Music in Historic Sites presents the “breathtaking and flawless” Fauré Piano Quartet , performing this gorgeous work by their namesake, along with quartets by Mozart and Mahler, in the splendidly ornate Pompeian Room of the Doheny Mansion.

Sat., Jan. 16, 8 p.m., 2010

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