Movement 1: Allegro molto
Movement 2: Andante
Movement 3: Allegro vivo
Movement 4: Allegro quasi presto
In the D minor Andante, in 9/8 time, there is a disquieting marriage between the gently swaying barcarolle rhythms often favoured by Fauré, and the intense, at times visionary, chromaticism. The rising piano arpeggios of the opening are inverted in the second idea which begins in a tenderly assuaging F major but is quickly deflected through a passionate sequence of modulations: in the recapitulation this theme, now in D major, builds to a still more searing climax, with astonishingly sonorous scoring.
Despite faint echoes of Mendelssohn, the Allegro vivo scherzo is a movement of delicious individuality, with its gossamer textures (note, for instance, the violin’s sudden bursts of pizzicato), its fleet harmonic sideslips and its teasing cross-rhythms. The trio offers a telling change of mood and sonority: a wistful cantabile melody, slightly Schumannesque in feeling, unfolds unhurriedly over a calmly undulating keyboard accompaniment. Not surprisingly, this movement was vociferously encored at its first performance.
The 6/8 finale, Allegro quasi presto, draws a striking contrast between its serene opening idea, oscillating hypnotically around a recurrent C sharp (a favourite melodic trait of Fauré) and the bitingly syncopated second theme which, with its various counter-melodies, dominates the closing stages of the exposition. In the development, the first three notes of the initial theme are worked almost obsessively against a new, sinuous violin melody that subtly emphasizes the intervals of the second and third on which the opening idea is built. The coda allows the violin its only flight of pure virtuosity in the work; yet, characteristically, the brilliant spiccato scales are held down to pianissimo until the very last bars.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 1999