A barcarolle (from French, also barcarole; originally, Italian barcarola or barcaruola, from barca ‘boat’) is a traditional folk song sung by Venetian gondoliers, or a piece of music composed in that style. In classical music, two of the most famous barcarolles are Jacques Offenbach’s “Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour”, from his opera The Tales of Hoffmann; and Frédéric Chopin’s Barcarolle in F-sharp major for solo piano.

A barcarolle is characterized by a rhythm reminiscent of the gondolier’s stroke, almost invariably in 6/8 meter at a moderate tempo.

While the most-famous barcarolles are from the Romantic period, the genre was known well enough in the 18th century for Burney to mention, in The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771), that it was a celebrated form cherished by “collectors of good taste”.

Other notable barcarolles include: the three “Venetian Gondola Songs” from Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words, Opp. 19, 30 and 62; the “June” barcarolle from Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons; Charles-Valentin Alkan’s “Barcarolle” from the Op. 65 Troisième recueil de chants; Béla Bartók’s “Barcarolla” from Out of Doors; Barcarolle, Op. 27, no. 1, by Moritz Moszkowski, and several examples by Anton Rubinstein, Mily Balakirev, Alexander Glazunov, Edward MacDowell, Mel Bonis, Ethelbert Nevin; and a series of thirteen for solo piano by Gabriel Fauré.

Gabriel Urbain Fauré (12 May 1845 – 4 November 1924) was a French composer, organist, pianist and teacher. He was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th-century composers. Among his best-known works are his Pavane, Requiem, Sicilienne, nocturnes for piano and the songs “Après un rêve” and “Clair de lune”. Although his best-known and most accessible compositions are generally his earlier ones, Fauré composed many of his most highly regarded works in his later years, in a more harmonically and melodically complex style.

Fauré – Barcarolle No.1 in A minor, Op.26


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