Over the course of his career, the composer Gabriel Faure (1845- 1924) witnessed a critical period of reform in regard to political, societal, and artistic developments in France. As bitter feelings seethed between the French and German nations following the Franco- Prussian War of 1870, so too did intellectual competition creep into visual, literary, theatrical, and musical arts. Gustave Larroumet, director of fine arts under Minster of Commerce Edouard Lockroy, aimed 'to maintain "France's national superiority" in the arts' in the 1870s and onwards (Pasler 462 and 461). French institutions encouraged the pioneering of a particularly 'French' aesthetic, motivating artists to aspire to excellence via prizes in composition and performance at the Conservatoire, for example. The French art song, or the me/odie, arose in the mid-nineteenth century alongside Hector Berlioz and Charles Gounod and partially contributed to the advancement of this nationalistic musical agenda. The me/odie was further championed and refined by other French composers, notably by Gabriel Faure, who carried the genre through to the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. Faure's continued efforts to elaborate and fortify the French art song parallel this historically critical period of national codification.
While Faure's compositions did not contribute to this goal with the express intention of galvanising the nation's morale, it is true that his ceuvre is today considered to be representative of what was a newly developing, uniquely 'French' style. The foremost expert on Faure's life and works, Jean- Michel N ectoux, notes the emerging and connective nature of the composer's work (« une ceuvre de transition », 'a work of transition') that both assimilated the rich language of Romanticism and paved the way for the more audacious harmonic innovations of Ravel, Chabrier, and Debussy (7).