sábado, 8 de octubre de 2022

César Franck, Piano Quintet in F minor

As the renowned French pedagogue and composer Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) once remarked, no piece of music contains a greater profusion of pianissimos and fortissimos than the Piano Quintet in F minor by the Belgian composer César Franck. The work was composed in the winter of 1878-79, when the composer, in his late sixties, was showing a somewhat unseemly interest in one of his female students. This highly expressive work (as demonstrated by the profusion of ppp and fff) has led some biographers to venture that it may have been inspired by that winter passion.

A repeated story
The one who had no doubts was Eugénie Desmousseaux, Franck's wife, who by then had given him four children (survived two). Eugénie openly declared that the piece was not to her liking. But why make it public? Perhaps she noticed unusual behavior in her husband, a state of mind that she could easily identify... Eugénie had also been his pupil. From there to her disaffection with the piece was only one step.

Cesar Frank (1822 - 1890)
A masterpiece
In any case, the work marked César Franck's return to chamber music after more than 35 years. And he did so with a masterpiece, which from its premiere in Paris in January 1880 won the applause of audiences and critics, with the notable exception of its performer for the occasion, Camille Saint-Säens. Despite being the dedicatée of the work, Camille left the stage at the completion of the piece annoyed by the incessant modulations that Franck's language demanded. The future French master thus joined Eugénie's disaffection, with as much or less justice.

00       Molto moderato quasi lento - begins with a dramatic tone which then develops into a powerful and passionate discourse.
15:00  Lento, con molto sentimento - is presented as a long aria where the piano dialogues with the string quartet.
26:35  Allegro non troppo, ma con fuoco - takes up the themes exposed in the preceding movements in a fiery atmosphere, creating a kind of musical drama. 

The rendition is by the French ensemble Quatour Ébéne and the Russian pianist Vyacheslav Gryaznov.

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