César Franck

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Piano Trio No.1 in f sharp minor, Op.1 No.1

"“Every musician should take the opportunity to get to know César Franck’s First Piano Trio, Op.1 No.1.—–Wilhelm Altmann writing in his Handbook for Piano Trio Players.


“With its budding genius, this trio (Op.1 No.1) marks an epoch in the history of musical evolution…alone at this period, the young composer ventured to plan his first important work according to ideas which Beethoven did little more than touch on in the last years of his life.”—–Vincent d’Indy writing in Cobbett’s Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music


Franck began work on his First Piano Trio in f sharp minor while still studying at the Paris Conservatory. It was completed in 1841 and is in three movements. The outer movements are written on a grand scale. The first movement, Andante, begins almost inaudibly and for its first half flows gently and slowly like a large sluggish river. One might say that we aurally witness the brick by brick construction of the massive edifice. Little by little the emotional temperature of the music is raised until it finally reach an explosive climax towards the end of the movement. The second movement, Allegro molto, is a scherzo. It begins in a powerful, but somewhat plodding fashion. But as the music is developed, it becomes more fleet of foot. The finale, Allegro maestoso, explodes with two powerful chords before the almost orchestral first theme is splashed upon a huge musical canvas. The music at times with its tremendous explosive power pushes the limits of chamber music, yet at other times it exhibits a charming, intimate delicacy.


César Franck, even today, is fairly well-known, not only as the father of modern French music, but also for his Symphony in d minor. His chamber music, unfortunately, has in modern times been unjustly shoved to the side and forgotten. Franck (1822-1890) was, during his lifetime also known as one of the best organists in the world. He was also a piano virtuoso and in later life as a professor at the Paris Conservatory became an important teacher. Among his many students were Vincent d'Indy and Ernest Chausson.

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