Fauré’s Élégie: Jacqueline du Pré

In 1880, immediately following the completion of his First Piano Quartet, Gabriel Fauré began work on a sonata for cello and piano. Often, when composing a new chamber work, Fauré began with the slow movement. Ultimately, the sonata failed to materialize, but the intended slow movement was published as a stand-alone piece—the solemn and lamenting Élégie, Op. 24.

As with the First Piano Quartet, the Élégie is set in C minor. Its mournful initial melody rises over a funereal ostinato in the piano. An inner line in the piano opens the door to the tender middle section of the piece, which is in A-flat major. With this music, Fauré seems to bid farewell to Romanticism. The pieces which followed moved into more austere territory which anticipated the twentieth century.

The Élégie was first performed by the cellist Jules Loëb on December 15, 1883 at the Société Nationale de Musique, the organization established by Saint-Saëns to promote French music. This 1969 recording features Jacqueline Du Pré, accompanied by pianist, Gerald Moore: