Ravel's so-called "posthumous" sonata, rather than having been penned from beyond the grave, is of course an early work not published until 1975, long after the composer's death. Not to be confused with Ravel's much better known G major sonata from 30 years later, which melds blues with neo-Classicism, this compact, one-movement sonata in A minor from 1897 adheres to the classic exposition-development-recapitulation-coda sequence. It shows the strong influence of Fauré and Franck, yet also uses a harmonic and melodic language Ravel would later make his own in his Piano Trio and String Quartet. The first theme, heard without introduction, is sinuous and dreamy; the second theme, brought in after a short piano solo, is smoother, broader, and at times vaguely Oriental, while still almost passing for Fauré. The coda, after a condensed recapitulation, is particularly chromatic, as if it were plucked from Franck's more famous violin sonata.
Throughout this work, Ravel constantly shifts meters and indulges in harmonic vagueness, helping place the sonata solidly in the French Impressionist style. Yet he also overly relies on triplets, allows his melody to descend frequently into repetition, and displays a competent but not entirely idiomatic knowledge of violin technique. Ravel obviously considered the work too flawed for publication, but it is nevertheless a beguiling piece that surely would have entered the standard repertory had Ravel tightened it up a few years after composing it.