“This is not a sonata, but is damned beautiful anyhow!” were the word that Ernest Reyer used after hearing the premier of the sonata in December 16th of 1886 at the Museum of Modern Painting in Brussels and it was performed by Ysaye and Bordes-Pene.
In this first movement “Allegretto ben moderato”. The first theme is the violin part in the exposition as well as in the recapitulation. Tonalically there is an off-tonic movement in the harmony and also there is a tendency to tonicize the major mediant. The second theme is more interesting in terms of elaboration; it has a virtuosic character more like Chopin’s style. There are chromatic contrasts between the two themes, which make to create a good balance between the piano and the violin. Because its lyric and melodious character the movement is relatively short and the form that it is divided I cannot define it as a sonata form.
The first movement with its cantabile character is comparable with the virtuosic character of the second movement. However it is not the only comparable characteristic that we can appreciate. For example: the first movement can not be attached to the sonata form while this second movement is clearly in an authentic sonata form. The exposition part (m.1- 79), Development (m80-137), Recapitulation (m138-219), and Coda (m 220-229). Another difference between these two movements is the length of the development sections, here in the second movement he uses interruptions, recitatives and theme transformations while in the first one he did utilize those resources; this might be the intention of Franck in order to create contrast between movements, he uses harmonic contrasts, melodic contrasts and also forms contrasts. Tonalically the first movement never was an affirmation of the A major tonality but here in the second movement we have cadences clearly cadences in D minor.
For me always is grateful to look at this Sonata and see how cyclical is Frank in his works. I can see the connection between the four movements this is not a new or innovator idea he borrowed it from the Baroque and Classical Periods for sure but here are other interesting components like the thematic integration led by the New German School of composers.
Cohen, Alex. “Cesar Franck and the Sonata.” The Musical Times. Vol 56, no. 868 (1915): 350-351
Julien Tiersot and Frederick H. Martens. “Cesar franck (1822-1922).” The Musical Quarterly. Vol 9, No. 1 (1923): 26-55
“Menuhin-Cesar Franck Sonata Mov 1.”Uploaded by “ViolinVideos” on Aug 24, 2007. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JBcvaK-B1M
“Menuhin-Cesar Franck Sonata mov 2.” Uploaded by “ViolinVideos” on Aug 24, 2007. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOj3WBdxvrI
Link to the picture movement 1: http://www.music-scores.com/midi.php?sheetmusic=Franck_Violin_Sonata_1st_mvt
Link to the picture movement 2: http://www.music-scores.com/midi.php?sheetmusic=Franck_Violin_Sonata_2nd_mvt