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César Franck

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César Franck

Biography

César-Auguste-Jean-Guillaume-Hubert Franck (10 December 1822, Liege, France – 8 November 1890, Paris) was a composer, pianist, organist, and music teacher who worked in Paris during his adult life.

Franck gave his first concerts in Liege in 1834. He studied privately in Paris from 1835, where his teachers included Anton Reicha. After a brief return to Belgium, and a disastrous reception to an early oratorio Ruth, he moved to Paris, where he married and embarked on a career as teacher and organist. He gained a reputation as a formidable improviser, and travelled widely in France to demonstrate new instruments built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.

In 1858 he became organist at Sainte-Clotilde, a position he retained for the rest of his life. He became professor at the Paris Conservatoire in 1872; he took French nationality, a requirement of the appointment. His pupils included Vincent d'Indy, Ernest Chausson, Louis Vierne, Charles Tournemire, Guillaume Lekeu and Henri Duparc. After acquiring the professorship Franck wrote several pieces that have entered the standard classical repertoire, including symphonic, chamber, and keyboard works.

Unusually for a composer of such importance and reputation, Franck's fame rests largely on a small number of compositions written in his later years, particularly his Symphony in D minor (1886–88), the Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra (1885), the Prelude, Chorale and Fugue for piano solo (1884), the Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major (1886), the Piano Quintet in F minor (1879), and the symphonic poem Le Chasseur maudit (1883). The Symphony was especially admired and influential among the younger generation of French composers and was highly responsible for reinvigorating the French symphonic tradition after years of decline. One of his best known shorter works is the motet setting Panis Angelicus, which was originally written for tenor solo with organ and string accompaniment, but has also been arranged for other voices and instrumental combinations.

As an organist he was particularly noted for his skill in improvisation, and on the basis of merely twelve major organ works, Franck is considered by many the greatest composer of organ music after Bach. His works were some of the finest organ pieces to come from France in over a century, and laid the groundwork for the French symphonic organ style. In particular, his early Grande Pièce Symphonique, a twenty-five-minute work, paved the way for the organ symphonies of Charles-Marie Widor, Louis Vierne, and Marcel Dupré, and his late Trois Chorals are a cornerstone of the organ repertoire, featuring regularly on concert programs.

Franck exerted a significant influence on music. He helped to renew and reinvigorate chamber music and developed the use of cyclic form. Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel remembered and employed the cyclic form, although their concepts of music were no longer the same as Franck's. Relating Franck as organist and composer to his place in French music, Smith states that "the concept of César Franck as organist and undisputed master of nineteenth-century French organ composition pervades nearly every reference to his works in other media."


Works for Winds


References