Beginning in the middle of the last half of the nineteenth century there appeared a number of exquisite French violin sonatas which share the elements of lovely melodies, elegant expression, tasteful and sincere emotionalism, and well-balanced forms, as well as occupying a special place in the repertoire and affections of violinists the world around. Franck, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Debussy, and Ravel are all contributors to this line of great sonatas.
Fauré, in fact, contributed two such sonatas, separated by 40 years, of which this one is by far the best known, and may be said to have initiated the line. Florent Schmitt correctly wrote that its appearance "marks a red-letter day in the history of chamber music."
Each movement has at least one achingly lovely lyrical theme. The passionate first theme is shared by both instruments (piano and violin are treated as partners throughout the work, rather than as soloist and accompaniment). The second movement, Andante, is reticent, almost shy, in character, with a fine melody for violin. The Scherzo is light-hearted in its outer sections, but lyricism returns in its central section, or "trio." Finally, the last movement is dramatic and emotional, yet even here there is an interlude with a lovely romantic theme.