Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Andante
Movement 3: Allegro vivo
Like the Sicilienne, the Andante was taken from another project, and was in fact the nucleus from which the sonata grew. At the beginning of 1921, Fauré received a state commission to write a work for the ceremony to be held on 5 May at Les Invalides to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Napoleon—not, one might have thought, much in his line, and he admitted to his wife that he found ‘the subject and the occasion thoroughly intimidating’. But he complied. And then the resulting Chant funéraire, duly orchestrated for the Garde républicaine by its conductor, obviously remained in its composer’s head. Would it never be heard again? He determined that it would. In the measured repeated chords of the accompaniment and the long majestic cello lines it looks back to the successful Élégie, now coloured with more enigmatic harmonies.
In the finale the two contrasting themes are separated in traditional fashion, the first a syncopated, almost jazzy tune, the second a tongue-in-cheek chorale. As in the First Sonata, the piano, playing in every bar of every movement, is the leader of things harmonic, while the cello rides imperiously over all its excentricities. In the variety and quality of his invention, the aged Fauré was every bit the equal of Verdi—or Elliott Carter. The day after the Sonata’s premiere on 13 May 1922, Vincent d’Indy wrote to his old friend: ‘I want to tell you that I’m still under the spell of your beautiful Cello Sonata … The Andante is a masterpiece of sensitivity and expression and I love the finale, so perky and delightful … How lucky you are to stay young like that!’
from notes by Roger Nichols © 2012