Fauré Quartett
The Fauré Quartett | Credit: Tim Klöckner

Calling it a “last fling with Monsieur Fauré,” Frederica von Stade (known by all as Flicka) speaks rhapsodically of her upcoming performance at Kohl Mansion:

“I’ve always loved Gabriel Fauré. I think there’s a hopeful outlook about his music, plus an irresistible joy even when the subject is serious and sad. I love the images he creates musically and his choice of poets.”

After a long and storied international career, Flicka, 77, stopped performing opera, but she remains busy as ever with music and her support for children and young artists.

Frederica von Stade
Frederica von Stade | Credit: Robert Millard

Flicka says of the Kohl Mansion concert, the latest performance in her “never say retirement tour”: “I’ve just always felt happy singing Fauré’s songs and have had happy experiences performing them and recording them. I feel so lucky to have been asked to have this last fling with Monsieur Fauré and this wonderful quartet.”

The occasion is the March 12 concert at Music at Kohl Mansion with Berlin’s Fauré Quartett (the German spelling is with two t’s). The program is Fauré’s “Clair de lune,” “Les berceaux,” “Notre amour,” and “Mandoline,” arranged for voice and piano quartet by Zakarias Grafilo; Antonín Dvořák’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 87 (B. 162); and Brahms’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 26.

For a song like “Notre amour,” there are recordings both of Flicka’s performance with pianist Jean-Philippe Collard in 1982 and of an instrumental arrangement by the Fauré Quartett — separate, now awaiting the twain to meet.

“Finding the Fauré Quartett,” says Music at Kohl Mansion Executive Director Patricia Kristof Moy, “is the result of the research we are engaged in 24/7 as a presenter of touring chamber ensembles.

“The Fauré Quartett was scheduled to perform for us in fall 2020, but ... COVID. ... The program at that time was to include two Fauré songs, arranged for piano quartet. These are pieces that this ensemble — named for the composer— loves and has recorded in the past.

“When we were finally able to reschedule the Quartett to join us live in our current 40th-anniversary season, they proposed these four songs, again arranged for piano quartet. But to me, it was a no-brainer: Why not invite the Quartett to perform the Fauré songs with a vocalist, as originally intended by the composer?

“Inviting our own world-renowned interpreter of French mélodie, Frederica von Stade, who has recorded and performed these beautiful songs to overwhelming acclaim, was the obvious next step, and Flicka accepting our invitation was a dream come true.”

A further step was asking Zakarias Grafilo, the Alexander String Quartet’s first violinist, a friend of Music at Kohl Mansion, and a renowned arranger, to help out with this project.

Grafilo told SF Classical Voice: “Patricia had heard several of my arrangements of [Gustav] Mahler, [Richard] Wagner, and [Richard] Strauss for mezzo-soprano and string quartet, but what she asked for this time was to arrange music for voice and piano quartet, which would be my first time arranging for this combination of instruments.

“These four songs by Fauré have been recorded by both Flicka, with piano, and the Fauré Piano Quartett, without voice, and I used these recordings as references for my arrangements.

“Many transcriptions of these songs are either for solo instrument and piano or for voice and full orchestra. The challenge I faced was to integrate the vocal line with the piano quartet parts and to somehow create a hybrid between the piano and orchestral accompaniment versions that would fit into a smaller, chamber music context.

“It is always my goal to not only emulate the style of the composer but also to create an intimate, chamber music sound world that has the solo vocal line interweave in and around the other instrumental parts. It is my hope that these arrangements remain true to the original compositions but also offer audiences a new and engaging vocal/chamber music experience.”

Concert in Kohl Mansion | Courtesy of Music at Kohl Mansion

For the rest of the program, Moy says “the Quartett suggested several pieces, and as is usual, we built the program by mutual agreement. Many factors influence our selections, and they are always the result of several consultations with the performers.”

The next concert at Kohl Mansion, on April 16, is “Curtis on Tour” — artists from Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music: Ida Kavafian (violin) and Peter Wiley (cello), with Yehun Jin (violin), Cara Pogossian (viola), and Francis Carr (cello).

Single tickets for all concerts are $55 (general), $52 (senior), and $25 (age 30 and below), available on Music at Kohl Mansion’s website or by calling the box office at (650) 762-1130. The March 12 concert is sold out; there is a waitlist for returned tickets.