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About The Music of César Franck
The Friday Afternoon Recital Series is celebrating the 200th anniversary of César Franck with a series of four recitals devoted to his music. Living a fundamentally unassuming life as an organist and professor at the Paris Conservatory, in his later years Franck produced a string of profound works ripe with inspiration, passion, intellectual rigor, and lyricism. Please join us for this set of four performances exploring the masterworks of one of the unsung heroes of the late-Romantic period.
Recital #1: Something old and something new
feat. Jee Sun Lee, DoYeon Kim, Brian Gilmore
Friday, October 28, 2022 at 2:00 PM
This program features OCC artist faculty Jee Sun Lee (violin), DoYeon Kim (cello), and Brian Gilmore (piano) in works from opposing ends of the composer’s life: the piano trio in f# minor and the violin sonata in A major. Perhaps Franck’s most famous and frequently performed work, the Violin sonata in A major was composed in 1886 as a wedding present for close friend and preeminent violinist Eugene Ysaÿe. The piece’s four movements are brimming with inspired lyricism shaped within a brilliant architectural structure conceived by an erudite master at the height of his powers. From the day it was presented by Franck to his dear friend Eugene, it became a signature piece within the violinist’s repertoire for the remainder of his concertizing life. To this day, it remains a favorite work for violinists, pianists, and audiences alike. On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have the Piano Trio in f# minor composed 44 years earlier by an impetuous virtuoso. Though the work of a young man just turned twenty, the passionate, youthful energy of this piece is initially tempered by and eventually sublimated through Franck’s perpetual predilection for cyclic form. Rarely performed, this is a piece not to be missed.
Recital #2: Franck and the piano
feat. Brian Gilmore
Friday, November 18, 2022 at 2:00 PM
The first two decades of young Cesar’s life were dominated by his father’s wish for him to be a touring virtuoso of the caliber of Franz Liszt. Though by all accounts, the young man possessed the skill and intellect for the task, it was a vision of life forced upon him; one which caused him to rebel against an extroverted life of fame and fortune in favor of the more peaceful, pious, and reclusive life of a church organist. And so away from the piano Franck walks for the next 40 years, working as an organist and composer of well-crafted, though emotionally disconnected, sacred works. That is, until a passionate awakening of his creative powers in 1879 causes him to return to the piano as a critical means of expression. This recital explores the two large-scale piano works stemming from the final decade of Franck’s life: Prélude, Choral et Fugue and Prélude, Aria et Final.
Both fundamentally conceived as a single movement works divided into three subsections, the pages of both works convey an astonishing sense of power, invention, richness of thought, and depth of feeling all shaped within Franck’s unique style of keyboard writing that synthesizes the conflicting strata of his life: the pianistic virtuosity of his youth and the organ saturated world of his mature life. Join us for an exploration and performance of these keyboard masterworks by OCC lecturer and afternoon recital series founder, Brian Gilmore.
Recital #3: Final utterance
feat. Karin Gargone, Brian Gilmore
Friday, December 2, 2022 at 2:00 PM
This performance introduces our audience to OCC’s newest musical acquisition in our mission to serve the Ocean County musical community, a new, custom-designed two manual/full pedalboard Rogers Inspire 233 digital organ. OCC Music Chair Karin Gargone will showcase this new instrument in a performance of Franck’s last and greatest organ work, the Troisième Choral (1890). Though uniquely French, the strong debt of influence owned to Johann Sebastian Bach is ever-present in this masterwork which was significantly dedicated to Augusta Holmès. The second part of the program will feature Franck’s Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra in a reduction for two pianos. One of Franck’s two compositions for piano and orchestra, Symphonic Variations richly explores its principle descending melody through numerous metamorphoses and incarnations of incredible lyricism and harmonic invention.
Recital #4: New passions awakened (and a new world opened)
feat. Jee Sun Lee, DoYeon Kim, Brian Gilmore
Friday, December 23, 2022 at 2:00 PM
This recital is fully devoted to Franck’s two chamber masterworks: the Piano Quintet in f minor and the String Quartet in D major. The Piano Quintet in f minor is a work of fire, passion, and overt sensuality which may be referred to as Franck’s great awakening. Composed in 1879, this work serves as the dividing line between his earlier, quite perfect (but somehow sterile and emotionally detached) works rooted in the religion and piety and the string of deeply expressive masterworks produced in his final decade of life. What stands between these two periods of Franck’s compositional life is a young woman named Augusta Holmès. The forbidden passions she inspired in this pious man, often referred to by his students as Seraphic Father, wreaked an inner sense of havoc and turmoil which could only find tangible expression through sound. Controversial during its time, despised by his wife and scorned by its dedicatee Camille Saint-Saëns, the overt passions in this piece are palpable and have carved-out an important place for this work in the history of music. Sharing the program is his masterful String Quartet in D major, written the year before Franck’s passing.