Posted by: Frederick Cornwell Sanders | 2013/12/10

“December 10, ” by Rick Sanders

English: Belgian / French composer César Franc...

English: Belgian / French composer César Franck (1822-1890) photographed by Pierre Petit (1832-1909). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1822, César Franck, the Belgian composer and organist is born. He dies in 1890. Wikipedia informs us of his legacy:

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 Grande Pièce Symphonique, a 25 minute work, paved the way for the organ symphonies of Charles-Marie Widor, Louis Vierne, and Marcel Dupré.

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.

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