Following the publication by Julien Hamelle of the Élégie
, Fauré was immediately commissioned to write a second piece for cello, perhaps as a lighter counterpart. But again there was a delay in publication, this time of fourteen years until 1898. On this occasion some responsibility might lie with the increasingly sour relations between composer and publisher, whose incompetence extended to actually losing manuscripts and who insisted on calling the piece first Libellules
(Dragonflies), then Papillon
(Butterfly); to which Fauré, no lover of fancy titles, retorted: ‘Butterfly or Dung Fly, call it whatever you like.’ The five sections of Papillon
contain contrasting material: the odd-numbered ones might equally be a French ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’, pre-empting Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1899 version; in the two enclosed sections the cello sings a lyrical, symmetrical song that finally takes wing over one of Fauré’s favourite descending bass lines.
from notes by Roger Nichols © 2012