The 63-year-old composer César Franck created this Sonata as a wedding gift for violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. While the groom would undoubtedly have been the star of the work’s first hastily arranged performance on the occasion of his nuptials, the sonata is in fact a marriage of equals: like Prokofiev, Franck was an accomplished pianist, and the natural partnership that sustains this piece is a testament to his intimate understanding of the instrument.
Following a short introduction, the violin introduces the first movement’s main theme. Constructed from a series of rising and falling thirds, the theme comprises the musical building blocks that form the basis of the entire work, connecting four otherwise contrasting movements. While the second movement is turbulent, the third is reflective. It is in the work’s final movement, as the violin and piano enter into a dialogue based on mutual respect, that a happy equilibrium is at last achieved.
Three months after his wedding Ysaÿe gave the Sonata its first public outing. He continued to champion the work throughout his long career, and in this way contributed to the recognition that is now – somewhat belatedly – accorded both the composer and this work.