String Quartet No.3 in c minor, Op.55
Wilhelm Altmann, probably the most important chamber music critic of the 20th century, in writing of Franck’s chamber music, 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.”
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.
It is believed that Franck's Third String Quartet dates from around 1870. Franck takes the explosive, dramatic writing of mid-late Beethoven as his model. The striking and powerful opening measures of the first movement, Allegro, immediately grasp the listener. An ominous and heavy pounding beat in the cello provides the background for a theme of destiny. The second subject, first stated by the cello high in its tenor register, is gentler and more lyrical. The calm, second movement, although marked Allegretto, is really an unhurried Andante pastorale. The sweet main theme has a naïve simplicity about it. An Allegro vivace, with its Halloween-like main theme, serves as a ghostly scherzo and provides a tremendous contrast not only with the preceding movement, but also with the innocent ländler of the trio section. The lively finale, an Allegro, begins quite softly with whirling triplets which quickly build and give way to the richly scored main theme.
The first and only edition of this work was published in 1899 some five years after Franck died, and quickly disappeared. This, in no small part, is certainly the reason that this fresh and original-sounding quartet never received the attention it should have. We are pleased to reintroduce it after nearly a century of unavailability and to make a copy of the score available for the first time ever. It not only deserves to be heard in concert and but also will surely provide great enjoyment to amateurs.
Parts & Score $31.95