About this work
"Butterfly or dungfly, call it what you like," Fauré wrote to his publisher, Hamelle, acceding at last to that worthy request to title a small piece for cello and piano, composed in 1884, Papillon. Impressed by the popularity -- and sales -- of Fauré's Élégie (1880), Hamelle had prodded the composer to produce a frankly virtuoso piece for cello. The upshot was slight, in terms both of duration and inspiration. In under three minutes, four rapid sections and a codetta flash by -- animated arpeggios for the cello leading into an expansive melody before the cello's brilliant opening returns, rippled by recollections of the central section, ascending suddenly to the tonic at the end. Startling, airy, and not without charm, Papillon is over before one grasps that the engaging shimmer is a mirage of no substance. The composer's recalcitrance regarding the title delayed publication until 1898. It immediately became, and has remained, one of Fauré's most often played pieces.