the "Prologue", notated in black ink on up to twenty-two staves per page, with characteristic heavy deletions and many erasures and alterations, including one page completely deleted, with parts for woodwind, brass, tympani and string instruments and five-part chorus ("La terre nue et sans chemin"), comprising eighty-nine bars music in all, written entirely by Fauré with a few small annotations in another hand in lighter ink, marked up and paginated in blue crayon and pencil (probably by Vincent d'Indy)
29 pages, folio (c.34.5 x 27cms), 22-stave paper, with a calligraphic title page in another hand ("La Passion. Prologue. G. Fauré"), no date [c.1890],
This is a major Fauré discovery. The autograph score of La Passion is hitherto unknown, the only other source for the music being a set of performing parts in a copyist's hand. Until the appearance of this manuscript, it was not even certain that Fauré completed the orchestration himself. His music is imbued with a modal flavour throughout, creating an atmosphere of mystery, recognized as "archaic tonality" by a contemporary reviewer.
Fauré's incidental music to La Passion was composed just after the main work on his Requiem op.48. In 1890, Sarah Bernhardt commissioned Edmond Haraucourt to write a mystery play dealing with Christ's Passion (with her in the role of the Virgin Mary). The writer immediately asked Fauré to provide the music, but because of the lack of time before the scheduled staging, Fauré composed only this "Prologue" for mixed chorus and orchestra. In fact, Fauré's orchestration was not ready for the first performance on 4 April 1890 and his music was performed (for the only time during Fauré's lifetime) when Vincent d'Indy conducted it at the Societé Nationale on 21 April 1890. There are a few performance markings in blue crayon on this manuscript (rehearsal numbers, accidentals and bowing), probably by d'Indy (and a few in ink that may be by him).
Fauré attended the Passion play at Oberammergau in July-August 1890 and evidently intended to compose a complete Passion setting himself: he carefully kept the performing parts of this "Prologue" among his personal effects until his death. However, the autograph full score went missing and is hitherto unknown, never having been seen by Fauré scholars, presumed destroyed or lost (J.-M. Nectoux, Gabriel Fauré. Les voix du clair-obscur, 2008, p.206).
Fauré's autograph score shows some differences of detail from the playing parts and thus from the modern reconstruction made from them by Sylvia Kahan: see her edition in 'Fauré's Prelude to La Passion' in Regarding Fauré, edited by T. Gordon (1999), pp.259-272. These details include Fauré's correct title ("Prologue"), his tremolo marking for the cellos on page 27, phrasing and his precise instructions to the timpanist on page 23 (before letter J).
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