Cumbrian Society of Organists

Review : The Work Music of César Franck : 26 January 2019

Twenty one organists braved the elements to attend the talk given by Adrian on the Organ Music of César Franck. As usual Adrian spoke with great aplomb and his talk was both educational and entertaining. He began by giving a short biography of Franck and he painted a picture of a man which contradicts what one would expect when seen in the photographs of the period.

For forty years Franck was titular organist at the church of St. Clotilde, Paris. He was an easy going man and his friends included such notable figures as Franz Liszt and Lefebure-Wely. They encouraged Franck and appreciated his music. Such friends must have been an antidote to his absolutely horrible wife who hated his music and did not appreciate him or give him any encouragement. It was no wonder that Franck entertained his friends in the organ loft beside his beloved Cavaille-Coll organ.

Adrian then went on to talk about the organ music of esar Franck and he played a selection of the music.

Prelude, Fugue and Variation - This has a very singable melody and a fiendishly difficult to play harmony. Organists beware, the music moves relentlessly, you begin to play and there is no stopping until the end of the piece. The melody to me is reminiscent of a Parisian street song.

Pastorale - Forget about woolly sheep and frolicking lambs, this had more the feel of the city. Adrian reckons this is quite easy to play. (Huh! to him maybe).

Cantabile - Franck liked the sound of the trumpet and the oboe. Instead of a trumpet Adrian used the clarion played one octave down.

From the Trois Chorales composed in 1890 Adrian played No.1 in E. This I found so emotional that it sent shivers down my spine.

Adrian ended his programme by playing Christmas music. French carol tunes, many of which were familiar to us.

In conclusion Adrian spoke of the difficulty in performing Franck’s organ music. Often we organists have to cheat in order to obtain the desired effect. This is because Franck had a hand-span which covered almost one and a half octaves.

Although ignored during his lifetime it is only now that Franck’s legacy to composition is being recognised. He was an innovator and the precursor of Widor and the French organ school, and this was because Franck was composing for the great Cavaille-Coll symphonic organs.

Thank you Adrian, your talks are never dull. You could make a fortune as an after dinner speaker. Ah! But then we would miss your music.