Gabriel (Urbain) Fauré

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

Nationality: French
Born: May 12, 1845, Pamiers, Ariège
Died: November 4, 1924, Paris (age 79)
wikipedia

Violin Sonata No. 1 in A major, Op. 13

(for violin and piano)
I. Allegro molto
II. Andante
III. Allegro vivo
IV. Allegro quasi presto
Composed: between 1875-1876 (age 30-31)
Published: 1877 (age 31-32)
Dedication: à Monsieur Paul Viardot
Duration: 26 minutes (approximately)
7 recordings, 17 videos
7:29
Bell, Thibaudet
I. Allegro molto
7:10
Bell, Thibaudet
II. Andante
3:49
Bell, Thibaudet
III. Allegro vivo
5:25
Bell, Thibaudet
IV. Allegro quasi presto
26:12
Hossen, Mollova
26:20
Kérisit, Martin
9:49
Mintz, Bronfman
Part 1 of
8:06
Mintz, Bronfman
Part 2 of
9:57
Mintz, Bronfman
Part 3 of
9:32
Mutter, Orkis
I. Allegro molto
6:32
Mutter, Orkis
II. Andante
3:44
Mutter, Orkis
III. Allegro vivo
5:38
Mutter, Orkis
IV. Allegro quasi presto
4:10
Perlman, Ax
III. Allegro vivo
7:58
Zukerman, Neikrug
Part 1 of
8:15
Zukerman, Neikrug
Part 2 of
9:59
Zukerman, Neikrug
Part 3 of

From Kai Christiansen:

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

Violin Sonata in A Major, Op. 13, 1876

Towards the end of his life in 1924, Gabriel Fauré was celebrated as the leading French composer of his time, a central force in the resurgence of French music in the late 19th century that rose from a late romantic style, sought a fresh nationalistic voice and emerged, with the likes of Debussy and Ravel, in 20th century “Impressionism.” Fauré’s music spans this timeline and has been described as a bridge between Brahms and Debussy. Fauré unquestionably established his own, unique musical style with innovations in modal and whole tone melody and a pliant harmony of subtle but constant modulation. It suggests a new kind of extended tonality as a natural extension of tradition without breaking it in the manner of atonality or synthetic serialism. Fauré was the most innovative composer of his generation and, through his teaching and writing, became quite influential on subsequent generations.

Fauré often seems obscured by various more famous compatriots – Saint-Saëns, Franck, Debussy and Ravel – yet his music prevails just beneath this surface. Compilations of “beautiful” music often include his orchestral Pavane or the Sicilienne from the Pelleas et Melisande suite and his Requiem is beloved. One of the greatest composers of nuanced French art song and he is equally for his masterful Barcaroles and Nocturnes for solo piano. One of Fauré’s greatest achievements is a corpus of exquisite chamber music including, most famously, two piano quartets, the second piano quintet, a piano trio and a final, elusive string quartet. Without question, the Violin Sonata in A major, Op. 13 is firmly in the repertoire, perhaps his most well-known and frequently played chamber work. The sonata marks not only Fauré’s debut as a chamber composer, but, with Franck’s famous violin sonata still nine years in the future, a new era of exquisite French chamber music in general.

The opening Allegro molto is a sweeping sonata form, the longest movement of the four. The piano sings a substantial first theme with a shimmering, rippling figuration that invests the entire movement with a rolling motion, a certain nervous splendor. Fauré’s personal voice seems already well established here: a cool romanticism flows and surges in a tonality that is mostly major, just a touch exotic. Lines longer than classical motives shift in subtle articulations with passing modulations where minute adjustments of pitch and interval spin an ever-changing mosaic across a broad, expansive development. The music is elegant, ample and deeply expressive.

The slow movement is demure, languid, reflective, yet, in Fauré’s typical fashion, steady in pulse and motion. A broad 9/8 meter suggests both a sweeping waltz and a relaxed barcarolle, a touching lyrical song over crystalline figurations. Dreamy and poised, the music evokes the transparent delicacy of watercolors. It begins darkly, but rises into great joy the somber beginning transform into warmth and joy.

The third movement is a lively scherzo and trio, surprisingly in 2/8 rather than the customary triple meter. The music swiftly scampers with carefully placed accents for the rhythmic punctuation expected of customary scherzo. The trio brings a true ¾ time signature with a slackened pace and a touch of melancholy and repose for effective contrast.

The finale restores the babbling, watery motion of the beginning in relaxed rondo form: a recurring refrain with contrasting episodes. The music is sweet, bright and kind but surges with romantic bravado and expressive lyricism. Fauré’s music is quintessentially French: there is emotion with restraint, beauty that is almost nonchalant, complexity without losing clarity, passion without losing poise.

© Kai Christiansen. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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