César Franck, classical music composer

César Franck

Biography

César Franck (December 10, 1822 – November 8, 1890).  

Born the December 10th, 1822 in Liège, then a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, César Franck became one of the leading musical figures in 19th century France. At an early age he showed an aptitude for not only music but also drawing. Whatever may have been his artistic abilities, his father, Nicholas-Joseph, however, envisioned young César-Auguste (as he was known until his twenties) as a prodigy pianist-composer in the mould of Liszt and Mozart. Thus, Franck was sent to the Royal Conservatory of Liège to study piano, organ and harmony with Joseph Daussoigne-Méhul. He gave his first public concerts in 1834.

The following year, Franck and his younger brother, Joseph, were taken to Paris to study privately with two professors of the Paris Conservatoire. Not long after, Nicholas-Joseph sought to formally enter both his sons into the prestigious school. The Conservatoire, however, did not except foreign students. Not giving up on his dreams for his two sons, Nicholas-Joseph applied for French citizenship, which he was granted in 1837, and Franck and his younger brother officially entered the Conservatoire in October 1837. Franck excelled early at the piano, taking first prize at the end of his first year of studies. His training in counterpoint, on the other hand, was not so remarkable—he did not take first prize until his third year of studies. During this time, he also took up organ lessons with Franҫois Benoist.

Franck's studies were abruptly cut off in 1842 when he made a "voluntary" retirement from the Conservatoire. The reasons are not for certain, but it is likely that Franck's withdraw was at the demands of his father. Franck led a difficult life in Paris, combining private lessons and concerts on top of his requirements for the Conservatoire. His concerts were initially well received, but his father's actions eventually pitted him against Paris's music critics. Ultimately, Nicholas-Joseph ordered his son to return to Belgium with him. The return to Belgium, however, was unfruitful. No profitable concerts were given, critics were indifferent and the Belgian court was unwilling to give a patronage. With such dismal prospects, Franck's return to his native country lasted less than two years.

During these years, Franck's first mature compositions appeared, in particular, a set of piano trios. Liszt saw the works and offered the young composer constructive criticism. A few years later, Liszt even performed the works in Weimar. In 1843, Franck premiered his first large-scale work, the oratorio Ruth. Though it received a somewhat favorable reception from Liszt and Meyerbeer, it fell flat with the public. Taking cue from this rather lackluster premiere, Franck withdrew himself from the public spotlight and focused himself as a teacher and accompanist, accepting occasionally commissions for the composition of songs and other small works.

In 1846, a friendship and later courtship with one his private piano pupils, Eugénie Saillot, lead to a severe dispute with his father. Nicholas-Joseph forbad his son from betrothal and marriage, a right given to him by French law until his son was 25. His relationship worsening with his father, Franck walked out his parent's house in July of that year with nothing but what he could carry. Eugénie's family, who were members of the Comédie-Franҫaise company, welcomed Franck into their home. Once he turned 25 and out from under the authoritarian grip of his father, Franck informed him of his intent to marry Eugénie and the two were wed on February 22, 1848.

Career-wise, Franck ultimately found himself, in 1858, as maitre de chapelle, and eventually as titulaire (primary organist), of the newly consecrated Sainte-Clotilde. Soon after, compositions for organ, choir and harmonium began appearing, most notably the Messe à 3 voix and the Six Pièces. Franck's reputation as an organist grew steadily, often being called upon to give inaugural or dedicatory recitals for new or rebuilt organs. He also began giving regular recitals at his parish church. With the help of Liszt, one particular concert devoted to Franck's organ works garnished the praise of both audience and critics alike.

When Benoist retired as organ professor at the Paris Conservatorie, Franck was strongly suggested as his replacement and in 1873 he officially became a faculty member. As a professor, Franck created a tight-knit circle of students, among them Vincent d'Indy and Henri Duparc, that often referred to him as Père Franck ("Father Franck"). Franck even went so far as to seek his student's input when he was hesitant over compositional decisions in his own music. Several of Franck's major works date from this time, including the oratorio Rédemption, the Piano Quintet, the Violin Sonata and his lone Symphony in D minor. Some were quite successful such as the Violin Sonata; others received a rather icy response, like the Symphony.

In May 1890, Franck suffered a head injury while riding in a cab when a horse-drawn trolley struck it. Though he initially appeared to shake off the injury, his health became increasing worse after that. Later in the year, a cold turned into pleurisy. Franck died on November 8, 1890. Several musical notables, including Saint-Saëns, Charles-Marie Widor (his successor at the Conservatoire) and Gabriel Fauré, attended his funeral mass, held at Sainte-Clotilde


Composer Title Date Action
César Franck Prelude, Figue and Variation for organ, Op. 18 01/12/2009 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, M. 8 12/21/2011 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Prelude chorale and fughe 05/08/2012 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Prélude, Choral et Fugue 03/21/2009 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Prélude, Choral et Fugue 01/20/2009 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Prelude, Fugue et Variation, op. 18 10/29/2009 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Alegretto Moderato, from Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, M. 8 02/06/2012 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major (transcribed for cello) 09/28/2010 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Sonata for violin and piano in A Major (transcribed for viola) 01/17/2009 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, M. 8 01/23/2009 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, M. 8 05/30/2013 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, M. 8 01/21/2009 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, M. 8 04/06/2010 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, M. 8 11/16/2012 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, M. 8 01/16/2009 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, M. 8 04/11/2012 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Violin Sonata in A Major, Allegro 10/20/2010 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Prelude, Chorale and Fugue 10/28/2013 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, M. 8 12/03/2013 Play Add to playlist
César Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, M. 8 01/20/2014 Play Add to playlist