Fauré: Violin Sonata No. 1 in A major

Program notes

[blockquote author=”Saint-Saëns”]

In this sonata you can find everything to tempt a gourmet…


Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in A major, op. 13

Allegro molto
Scherzo: Allegro vivo
Finale: Allegro quasi presto

Lush, undulating piano introduces the main theme of Gabriel Fauré’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in A major, Op. 13, before the violin begins its climbing melody over the top. Fauré himself played the piano part when the work premiered in Paris in 1877, with young star violinist Marie Tayau, whose interpretation Fauré dubbed ‘perfect’.

Fauré was yet to become well-known as a composer and was working as a teacher and organist at the time, mentored and encouraged by his former teacher Camille Saint-Saëns. He was gaining some traction, however, through the soirées of composer and singer Pauline Viardot, and it is to Viardot’s son Paul that Fauré dedicated his First Violin Sonata.

Following the soaring first movement, the Andante strikes a darker, though no less sonorous, tone with a quiet, lilting melody. In contrast, the Scherzo trips along with quirky rhythms and playful flourishes that keep both audience and players on their toes. The Finale begins with an almost innocent elegance that gives way to more lavish textures.

While music publishers baulked at Fauré’s original harmonies, the sonata’s premiere was a great success – and it remains one of the composer’s most popular works.

‘In this sonata you can find everything to tempt a gourmet: new forms, excellent modulations, unusual tone colours, and the use of unexpected rhythms,’ Saint-Saëns wrote of the premiere. ‘And a magic floats above everything, encompassing the whole work, causing the crowd of usual listeners to accept the unimagined audacity as something quite normal. With this work Monsieur Fauré takes his place among the masters.’

© Angus McPherson, 2023

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