Masques et bergamasques

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Masques et bergamasques
by Gabriel Fauré
The composer in 1907
Catalogue Op. 112
Related Mostly based on earlier pieces, including Clair de lune and Pavane
Based on Fêtes galantes of the 18th century
Composed 1919 (1919)
  • Eight (incidental music)
  • four (suite)
    • Tenor
    • choir
    • orchestra
    (incidental music)
  • orchestra (suite)

Masques et bergamasques, Op. 112, is a twentieth-century musical homage to the world of the fêtes galantes of the eighteenth century by the French composer, organist, and choirmaster Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924).

Written quite late in Fauré's life, Masques et bergamasques is commonly heard today as an orchestral suite. However, the work arose under unusual circumstances. It was originally designed as incidental music to accompany a one-act divertissement, a danced-and-sung entertainment, with a scenario by René Fauchois inspired by the poet Paul Verlaine. The divertissement was about how members of a commedia dell'arte troupe would spy on the amorous encounters of aristocrats in its audience.

The work was commissioned by Albert I, Prince of Monaco and was first performed in Monte Carlo on 10 April 1919. The eight movements were almost all drawn from earlier works of Fauré:

  1. Ouverture (from an abandoned 1869 symphony)
  2. Pastorale (the only new movement)
  3. Madrigal (Op. 35, 1884; for chorus and orchestra)
  4. Le plus doux chemin (Op. 87 No. 1, 1904; for tenor and orchestra)
  5. Menuet (from the 1869 symphony)
  6. Clair de lune (Op. 46 No. 2, 1887; for tenor and orchestra)
  7. Gavotte (from the 1869 symphony)
  8. Pavane (Op. 50, 1887)

The title, Masques et bergamasques (meaning "masks and bergamasks", a bergamask being a rustic dance), comes from the opening lines of the Verlaine poem sung as the sixth movement: "Votre âme est un paysage choisi / Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques." Fauré reportedly said of Masques et bergamasques that "it is like the impression you get from the paintings of Watteau."

The suite drawn from the work has remained one of Fauré's most popular works, and consists of four of the purely orchestral movements:

  1. Ouverture: Allegro molto vivo
  2. Menuet: Tempo di minuetto – Allegretto moderato
  3. Gavotte: Allegro vivo
  4. Pastorale: Andantino tranquillo

The Gavotte may be played before the Menuet. The entire piece runs about 14½ minutes.