The Cello Sonata No 1 in C minor Op 32, from 1872, was the first result of the new Société Nationale de Musique, and therefore a work of significance for France. As in the case of Brahms’s First Symphony, the choice of key may owe something to Beethoven. The second movement is in the relative major key of E flat and originates from an organ improvisation in the church of Saint Augustin. Charles-Marie Widor told the story of the composition of the third movement. After attending the successful first performance of the Sonata, Saint-Saëns, surprised that his mother had made no comment on the piece, asked: ‘Don’t you have anything to say? Aren’t you pleased?’ Mme. Saint-Saëns then said she liked the first two movements, but not the finale. A few days later he triumphantly told her: ‘I have composed a new finale! Do you want to hear it?’ This is the finale we know today. It contains quotes from the first act of Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine
—possibly a favourite of Saint-Saëns’s mother’s. The Sonata is in good company in his output, preceded by the Introduction et rondo capriccioso
Op 28 for violin and orchestra and Le rouet d’Omphale
Op 31, considered the first French symphonic poem, and followed by the Cello Concerto No 1 in A minor Op 33.
from notes by Mats Lidström © 1999