Gabriel Fauré, great French composer and pedagogue was born in Pamiers, Ariege on May 12, 1845 and died in Paris on Nov. 4, 1924. His father was a provincial inspector of primary schools; noticing the musical instinct of his son, he took him to Paris to study with Louis Niedermeyer; after Niedermeyers death in 1861, Fauré studied with Saint-Saens, from whom he received thorough training in composition. In 1866 he went to Rennes as organist at the church of St.-Sauveur; returned to Paris on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, and volunteered in the light infantry. He was organist at Notre Dame de Clignancourt (1870), St.-Honoré dElyau (1871), and St.-Sulpice (1871—74). He then was named deputy organist (to Saint-Sadns, 1874), choirmaster (1877), and chief organist (1896) at the Madeleine. In 1896 he was appointed prof. of composition at the Paris Cons. He was an illustrious teacher; among his students were Ravel, Enesco, Koechlin, Roger-Ducasse, Florent Schmitt, and Nadia Boulanger. In 1905 he succeeded Theodore Dubois as director and served until 1920. Then, quite unexpectedly, he developed ear trouble, resulting in gradual loss of hearing. Distressed, he made an effort to conceal it but was eventually forced to abandon his teaching position. From 1903 to 1921 he wrote occasional music reviews in Le Figaro (a selection was publ. as Opinions musicales, Paris, 1930). He was elected a member of the Academie des Beaux Arts in 1909, and in 1910 was made a Commander of the Legion d’honneur. Fauré’s stature as a composer is undiminished by the passage of time. He developed a musical idiom all his own; by subtle application of old modes he evoked the aura of eternally fresh art; by using unresolved mild discords and special coloristic effects, he anticipated procedures of Impressionism; in his piano works he shunned virtuosity in favor of the Classical lucidity of the French masters of the clavecin; the precisely articulated melodic line of his songs is in the finest tradition of French vocal music. His great Requiem and his Elégie for Cello and Piano have entered the general repertoire.
Paul Taffanel (1844-1908), often called the father of the modern French school of the flute, was a busy man, active at the Opéra de Paris, in the Conservatoire concerts, as the leader of the L'Orchestre de la Société des Instruments à Vent (which commissioned, among many other works, d'Indy's Chansons et danses), and, from 1893, as a professor at the Conservatoire. Fauré was appointed professor of composition there in October 1896, and it was almost inevitable that Taffanel should ask him, in the spring of 1898, to write a sight-reading piece and a concours composition for the July examinations. No doubt owing to Wagnerian camaraderie, Fauré passed the orchestration of his incidental music for Maeterlinck's Pelléas et Mélisande, on which he had been feverishly working, to his pupil Charles Koechlin, so he could get to grips with the concours piece. The Fantaisie for flute and piano occupied him from the beginning of June until at least mid-July, though its fluent brilliance belies the effort that went into it. Opening with a brief sicilienne of great charm, the Fantaisie soon gets down to its raison d'être with a winsomely chirping tune riffled by mercurial pyrotechnics. Writing to Koechlin on his way to London on June 10, 1898, for the June 21 premiere of Pelléas, Fauré complained, "I am drowned in the Taffanel and plunged up to my neck in scales, arpeggios, and staccati! I have already perpetrated 104 bars of this irksome torture...." But for the adept musician who can, as intended, take its virtuoso demands in stride, the Fantaisie affords an airily effusive, scintillantly rapturous, and wholly un-Wagnerian spate of liquid silver. Its first performance was given by the concours winner, one Gaston Blanquart, on July 28, 1898. Despite the grumbling Fauré lavished on the piece, he seems to have prepared an orchestral version, which is now lost. In 1957, Louis Aubert made an orchestral arrangement published by the firm of Hamelle the year after.
This piece was written for Piano and Flute and is best played using the "GeneralUser GS.sf2" Soundfont by S. Christian Collins Software (http://www.schristiancollins.com/generaluser.php).