César Franck (10.12.1822 – 8.11.1890) was a composer, pianist, organist, and music teacher who spent his adult life in Paris. Franck’s reputation is built upon a comparatively small number of compositions that he wrote towards the end of his career. Notably his Symphony in D minor, the Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra, the Prelude, Chorale and Fugue for piano solo, the Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, the Piano Quintet in F minor and the symphonic poem Le Chasseur maudit.
All of the above pieces are worth exploring in greater depth but for our collection of masterworks we have opted to include Franck’s Symphony in D minor. This symphony, written between 1886 and 1888, is unusual in that it is written in three movements rather than the usual four. This is a distinctive work that combines both the Beethovenian principle of progressing from darkness to light and the Lisztian discursive technique of changing basic ideas in ever-changing ways that circulate whilst at the same time providing forward momentum. Thus we have a symphony that is designed on a large scale model full of contrasting moods, textures and tonality that are more prominent than in more classical symphonies from Haydn through to Brahms.
In our view there is no better performance of this work than that by the Orchestra de Paris conducted by Semyon Bychkov.