Fauré’s Cello Sonata No. 1 in D Minor: “The Power of Tranquil Thought”

Gabriel Fauré’s Cello Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 109 inhabits a world of elegance and dreamy nostalgia. It is music characterized by soft edges, buoyant motion, and an effortless sense of melody. Composed in the summer of 1917, this is one of two cello sonatas Fauré completed in the final decade of his life. During these years, Fauré, who served as the head of the Paris Conservatoire until 1920, continued to compose despite suffering from increasing hearing loss. For the attentive listener, Fauré’s two cello sonatas have been described as conveying “the power of tranquil thought.” (Martin Cooper)

The opening theme of the first movement (Allegro) was drawn from an unpublished D minor Symphony the composer completed in 1884. It begins with a percussive rhythmic “heartbeat” in the piano which develops into an exuberant motor. In the final bars, this persistent, propulsive line is picked up by the cello.

The second movement (Andante) is a serene and melancholy sarabande. There are motivic echoes of the Pie Jesu movement from Fauré’s Requiem. Glistening, bell-like tones in the piano embellish the cello’s singing line. Later, these turn into “ghost notes” which give the fleeting impression of a haunting second cello voice (3:14).

The final movement (Allegro comodo) evokes magical, ever-shifting light. This outwardly sunny music is tinged with a subtle underlying longing and sadness. Appropriately, it is the dreamy, illusive music of a composer who once said, “Imagining is trying to formulate all one would wish to be better, all that surpasses reality.”

Here is a recording by cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist Pascal Devoyon:

I. Allegro:

II. Andante:

III. Final – Allegro comodo:


  • Fauré: Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 1 in D minor, Op. 109, Steven Isserlis, Pascal Devoyon Amazon

Featured Image: “Water-Lilies” (1903), Claude Monet

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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