Born: 1822, Liège, Belgium
Died: 1890, Paris, France
“It little matters whether music sets out to awaken ideas about a given external subject, or limits its purpose to expressing a state of mind…; what is indispensable is that a work should be musical, and emotional as well.”
The 1886 marriage of celebrated violinist Eugène Ysaÿe (a champion of CÉSAR FRANCK’s music) inspired Franck’s lone Violin Sonata (It was also published in versions for cello and for flute). Ysaÿe played the work many times on his tours, telling his listeners that he played it “con amore” since it was a wedding present.
Franck originally intended the opening movement to be slow and reflective, but Ysaÿe persuaded him that it worked best at a quicker tempo, so Franck marked it Allegretto with the qualifier “ben moderato.”
The second movement is a dramatic scherzo, opening as a turbulent piano toccata, then with a surging, offbeat violin line laid over it. There are lyrical or pensive interludes, but the roiling toccata always reasserts itself.
The chromaticism of the third movement’s introduction shows the influence of Wagner. Midway through, the improvisatory Recitativo yields to the more insistently directed Fantasia.
The finale begins with an optimistic theme played in canon, the violin following the piano a bar later. The opening theme of the movement returns in A major before swelling into exultant joy.
String Quartet (1889)
Juilliard String Quartet (Sony Classical)
Trois Chorals (organ, 1890)
Michael Murray (Telarc)