Cello Sonata No.2 in F Major, Op.42
Eduard Franck (1817-1893) was born in Breslau, the capital of the Prussian province of Silesia. He was the fourth child of a wealthy and cultivated banker who exposed his children to the best and brightest that Germany had to offer. Frequenters to the Franck home included such luminaries as Heine, Humboldt, Heller, Mendelssohn, and Wagner. His family’s financial position allowed Franck to study with Mendelssohn as a private student in Dusseldorf and later in Leipzig. As a talented pianist, he embarked upon a dual career as a concert artist and teacher for more than four decades during the course of which he held many positions. Although he was highly regarded as both a teacher and performer, he never achieved the public recognition of his better known contemporaries such as Mendelssohn, Schumann or Liszt. As fine a pianist as the first two and perhaps even a better teacher, the fact that he failed to publish very many of his compositions until toward the end of his life, in part, explains why he was not better known. Said to be a perfectionist, he continually delayed releasing his works until they were polished to his demanding standards. Schumann, among others, thought quite highly of the few works he did publish during the first part of his life.
Writing of Franck's chamber music, Wilhelm Altmann, probably the most important chamber music critic of the 20th century, comments:
“This excellent composer does not deserve the neglect with which he has been treated. He had a mastery of form and a lively imagination which is clearly reflected in the fine and attractive ideas one finds in his works.”
The Op.42 Cello Sonata although published in 1882 was composed perhaps as early as 1850 or even before at the same time he wrote his first cello sonata. There is no question that Franck had the example of his teacher Mendelssohn in mind when he set to work on these sonatas. Mendelssohn was virtually the first major composer who gave the cello an equal role with the piano. The lovely opening Allegro has a Mendelssohnian tinge to it, slightly autumnal in mood. A scherzo, Allegro vivace, follows. There is a certain Mozartean formality about it. The huge slow movement, Adagio molto espressivo, is clearly the sonata's center of gravity. It begins in a striking fashion with the piano stating the theme, pregnant with possibilities, while the cello ominously plays an extended whole note in its deepest register. After several episodes of this, the cello slowly comes to life echoing the final part of the piano phrase before taking over with a long cantilena statement of the melody. The bright and cheerful finale, Presto, completely changes the deep seriousness of what has come before and dances ahead unabated.
Long out print, we are pleased to reprint it and are grateful to Dr. Paul Feuchte and Dr. Andreas Feuchte, the composer's great grandson and great-great grandson, for supplying us with a copy of it. This fine work deserves to be performed in recital and is a valuable addition to the mid romantic repertoire.