Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cesar Franck - Symphony In D Minor

César Franck (1822-1890) was a Belgian composer who was also an organist, pianist and a teacher in Paris for many years.  He took French citizenship in 1872 upon his professorial appointment at the Paris Conservatoire.

Franck was a child prodigy and gave his first public recitals in 1834 when he was twelve. He also began composing early, but due to harsh criticism of his works he ceased composing and concentrated on the organ and his teaching duties. He became a virtuoso on the organ and a master at improvisation, and was hired by an organ manufacturer to demonstrate their instruments.

With his tenure as Professor Of Organ at the Conservatoire, Frank renewed his efforts at composition and during the last eighteen years of his life he composed the works which he is known for.  The Symphony In D Minor was composed in 1886-1888 and combines  cyclic form of composition (a technique much used by Liszt and Wagner and some French composers) with a decidedly German style of orchestration. The first theme heard when the piece begins is the kernel upon which the entire symphony is built.

The politics of the time lead to very harsh criticism of the Symphony when it was premiered. A Symphony by a Frenchman written in a German style of orchestration was not conducive to good reviews so soon after the Franco-Prussian war, especially from any professor or composer that was associated with the conservative Paris Conservatoire.  But the quality of the music was more than enough to outlast the negative political attacks.


  1. Good notes. The definitive reading of this symphony is by Zubin Mehta and the Berlin Philharmonic followed by Leonard Bernstein and Orchestre Nationale de France and Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam under Karel Ancerl.

  2. this is so unbelievably epic and beautiful, like dramatic colorful waves... wow, i absolutely love it and really looking forward playing it. I will try to drop by soon and let you know how i am loving it and exploring it....;-º anjie skaya

  3. This was the beginning of my musical career. At age 12 I was captivated by this beautiful masterpiece. In college I heard great jazz, met Louis Armstrong, and became a professional trumpet player for some 60 years. The key of D minor is still my favorite especially for the blues. Franck was, to me, a blues man, and I hear him in Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, in Mingus, Ellington, Mahalia, and many great blues players. His lovely chromatics are essential to me. Fred James