Pater seraphicus is how the Nineteenth-century pianist/organist/instructor/composer César Franck was recognized to his pupils. It could be honest to recommend that the consonant Panis angelicus, Franck’s setting of a verse from an historic hymn, is how he’s finest remembered by music-lovers with solely restricted information of his output. Has the passing of time handled him pretty? This yr marks the two hundredth anniversary of Franck’s start in 1822, so our weblog has lined up some examples of his output, not all of them as famend as his Violin Sonata in A serious or the Symphony in D minor.
Belgian by start, French by alternative, César Franck was born within the Walloon metropolis of Liège. The musical presents he displayed at an early age have been inspired by his father, who noticed the opportunity of a profession for his son as a virtuoso performer. In 1837 he was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire, the place he started to win some distinction. The pure course for him would have been to take part within the necessary Prix de Rome, victory through which would have introduced three years’ examine in Rome. However in 1842 his father withdrew him from the Conservatoire, once more in search of a profession for his son as a performer, initially in Belgium, the place it was hoped to curiosity influential patrons. Two years later the Francks have been again in Paris once more.
We begin with an early foray into keyboard show from these unsettled years, written when Franck was solely 13: his Second Grand [Piano] Concerto in B minor. The imaginative and prescient of the teenage composer/soloist strutting his stuff in a putative efficiency of the work brings a smile to the face, and a few pleasure to the ear. Right here’s the opening of the rondo finale.
Second Grand Concerto (8.553472)
With just some extra years on his clock, we transfer to the set of three piano trios the 19-year outdated wrote in 1841, dedicating them to King Leopold I on the insistence of his father (in keeping with Vincent d’Indy, one in every of Franck’s college students) to strengthen the truth that César was Belgian. It was no much less a determine than Franz Liszt who instructed that the final motion of one of many trios ought to exist as a stand-alone work and get replaced by new materials. That extricated single motion turned the Trio No. 4 in B minor. Lasting some 20 minutes, we hear the ruminative opening part.
Trio No. 4 (CDS21)
Franck’s failure to impress, both as a pianist or as a composer, introduced within the following years the necessity to earn a dwelling as a instructor and as an organist; his popularity within the latter function over the following a long time led to his appointment in 1872 as professor of organ on the Paris Conservatoire. Earlier than we leap ahead to his maturer years that introduced him extra success as a composer, nevertheless, I’ve one other couple of extracts which may be of curiosity.
Franck composed 4 operas, the earliest of which, Stradella (1841–42), was written whereas he was barely out of his teenagers. The work was resurrected for the primary time in 2012 at a efficiency in Franck’s birthplace. The recording we’re about to listen to might be nonetheless the one one that’s commercially accessible. Right here’s the music that closes Act II to your judgment as to its dramatic promise.
It wasn’t till 40 years later that Franck made his subsequent foray into opera with Hulda. Mid-way, in 1860, he produced this gem of a tune that units verse by Victor Hugo – Roses et papillons.
Roses et papillons, la tombe nous rassemble
Tôt ou tard.
Pourquoi l’attendre, dis ? Veux-tu pas vivre ensemble
Quelque half ?
Quelque half dans les airs, si c’est là que se berce
Ton essor !
Aux champs, si c’est aux champs que ton calice verse
Son trésor !
Où tu voudras ! qu’importe ! oui, que tu sois haleine
Papillon rayonnant, corolle à demi pleine,
Aile ou fleur !
Vivre ensemble, d’abord ! c’est le bien nécessaire
Et réel !
Après on peut choisir au hasard, ou la terre
Ou le ciel !
Roses et papillons (SWR19030CD)
And so to Franck’s latter years and a small collection of extracts from his larger-scale works, with apologies for omitting any of your favourites, particularly organists! First up is the symphonic poem Les Éolides, written in 1875 and based mostly on a poem by Charles Marie René Leconte de Lisle in regards to the Aeolids (‘The Breezes’), daughters of Aeolus (the God of the Winds). Franck’s musical response vividly depicts these mythological ladies, who reawaken nature with their tune. It’s been instructed that echoes of Wagner and Mendelssohn will be detected, alongside pre-echoes of Impressionism. Do you agree? We hear the second half of the work.
Les Éolides (8.573955)
This transient introduction to Franck’s output concludes with three works that have been all premiered within the ultimate decade of his life – 2 chamber, 1 symphonic. Franck’s Piano Quintet in F minor was first carried out on the Société Nationale in January 1880 and was devoted to Camille Saint-Saëns, who performed the piano half on that event. It’s stated that Saint-Saëns appeared out of mood throughout the efficiency and that when it was completed he left the platform abruptly, abandoning the rating that had been devoted to him. Thereafter he apparently did his finest to discourage additional performances. Happily for us, he didn’t succeed. Right here’s how the work ends.
Piano Quintet in F minor (8.572009)
Franck’s String Quartet in D main comes on the summit of his achievement, first carried out six months earlier than his demise in November 1890. It’s a piece of some complexity that ends with a contrapuntal finale and a way of indebtedness to the German custom as embodied within the music of Beethoven and Brahms. Within the scherzo, nevertheless, it’s Mendelssohn that once more appears to be the principal reference.
String Quartet: Scherzo (8.572009)
Franck inscribed his solely symphony, the Symphony in D minor, “to my pricey buddy” (and pupil) Henri Duparc. His final work for orchestra, it had an inauspicious premiere in 1889 on the Paris Conservatoire. The famous conductor Charles Lamoureux had refused to tackle the job and was changed by Jules Garcin. Franck’s loyal scholar Vincent d’Indy recalled the chilly premiere:
“The subscribers might make neither head nor tail of it, and the musical authorities have been in a lot the identical place. I inquired of one in every of them—a professor on the conservatoire and a sort of factotum on the committee—what he considered the work. ’That, a symphony?’ he replied in contemptuous tones. ‘However my pricey sir, who ever heard of writing for the cor anglais in a symphony?’”
Posterity, thankfully, subsequently had totally different concepts and the Symphony in D minor went on to be admired among the many youthful technology of French composers and show influential in reinvigorating the French symphonic custom after years of decline.
Symphony in D minor Finale (8.553631)