Fauré would have been delighted to know that this edition corrects the misguided feline associations in the titles for the second and fourth of these pieces. 'Mi-a-ou' should always have been known as 'Messieu Auol' (reflecting an infant pronunciation of the eponymous Dolly's older brother, Raoul), and 'Kitty-Valse' should have been 'Ketty-Valse', inspired ironically not by a cat but by the family dog!
For such a cornerstone of the repertoire, Roy Howat - who personally knew Dolly Bardac, the suite's dedicatee - finds a surprisingly high number of source discrepancies to evaluate in the comprehensive critical commentary, including an indication that Fauré conceived the famous opening 'Berceuse' at a more flowing tempo than has become habitual over the decades. Based on his intimate knowledge of Fauré, he also urges the performers to keep rubato to a minimum, and keep the pedalling light.
Fauré's Dolly suite honours Hélène Bardac (1892-1985), second child of Fauré's close friend Emma Bardac, the talented singer for whom he composed La bonne chanson.
The infant Hélène's diminutive size, together with the contemporary anglomania, led to her being nicknamed "Dolly", and this remained with her throughout her life. Fauré presented this young girl with a lullaby for piano duet (the 'Berceuse'), possibly for her first birthday on 20 June 1893. Three more pieces followed: on her second birthday, on New Year's Day 1895, and on her fourth birthday in June 1896.
The final two movements were added that autumn to complete the suite on 17 November 1896. In fact the 'Berceuse' had been composed 30 years earlier, when Fauré was eighteen, for Suzanne Garnier, the young daughter of a family friend in Tarbes.