Franck, Cesar Auguste


Eminent Belgian composer and organist, who has been spoken of as "the saint of French music." Cesar Franck was born at Liege, but though born in Belgium is reckoned among the composers of France, where he lived and worked so long. His first musical instruction was received at the Liege Conservatory, and he continued his studies at the Paris Conservatory, then under the direction of Cherubini. While there he won prizes in counterpoint and fugue in Leborne's class, and also studied piano, winning first prize for piano in 1838 and second prize for composition the next year. Zimmermann was his piano teacher and Benoist was his organ instructor. He succeeded the last named, in 1872, as professor of the organ class at the Conservatory and organist at the Church of Ste. Clotilde. For thirty-two years, from 1858 until his death in 1890, Franck was organist at this church, where his playing inspired all who heard him, yet so modest and retiring was he, that he remained personally very inconspicuous, and was practically ignored during his lifetime, living in the city, but not of it. He early became a teacher and held to that profession throughout his life. He had many famous pupils, some of whom are now the leaders of the younger French School. By his deeply religious life, his lofty purpose and high ideals, combined with a rare intellect, he turned the thoughts of the men whom he instructed into serious channels  His most famous pupils are Vincent D'Indy, the late Ernest Chausson, Emanuel Chabrier, Guy de Ropartz and Pierre de Breville. He also in- fluenced other musicians to a large degree, including Gabriel U. Faure, the present head of the Paris Conservatory, Paul Dukas, and Alexandre Guilmant, the celebrated organist. Franck's career was not a brilliant one, but he was an indefatigable worker, who at fifteen years of age had practically finished his studies and who from then on practically devoted his life to his art, caring for nothing outside of it, and living in a little world of his own. His life throughout was regular and tranquil. As a teacher he was painstaking, giving all his life, from eight to ten lessons a day. At six in the morning he began composing, which was to him a recreation, and after a light meal would go out to give lessons, working hard all day. He would then spend his evenings giving correspondence lessons to his pupils in the provinces and perhaps   playing some of his choral compositions for his evening students. After a short stay in Belgium Franck went to Paris, remaining there, until his death, as a teacher and organist. To throw light upon his music it is necessary to dwell upon his habits and character, because his life was full of religious fervor and emotion and the deep mysticism, which has caused him to be compared to his countryman, Maurice Maeterlinck, the poet and dramatist. By his pupils he was called " Pater Seraphicus," and " Pere Franck," and they all adored him. Says Vincent D'Indy, his pupil, writing of him: " The foundation of his character was   goodness, calm and serene goodness.

He had high ideals and lived up to them." He never sought honors or distinctions, but worked hard and long to give of the best that was in him. Franck's genius as a composer matured late, for early in life he did little beyond writing a mass and some trios. His first great work was Ruth, which is described as a biblical eclogue and which won its composer much fame. Ruth was composed and performed at the Conservatory about 1846, and was not given again for twenty years. Ferme, an opera, was written in 1848, but was a failure, and from that time Franck devoted himself to music of a sacred nature and largely for the organ. In 1872 he wrote the oratorio, The Redemption, and in 1881 Rebekah, a biblical idyl. Les fiolides, his earliest composition for the organ, was brought out in 1877, when he was fifty-five. Les Beatitudes, begun in 1870, by many considered to be his masterpiece, was not finished until 1880. In 1889 as a splendid climax came his great D minor symphony, and in the last twenty-five years of his life were written the prelude, choral and fugue; aria; three chorals for organ; violin sonata; quartet and quintet and a set of symphonic variations for orchestra. Les Beatitudes, a musical paraphrase of the Sermon on the Mount, has been called by musicians a work " where the severity of the oratorio form is tempered by the tenderest inspiration." Its keynote is the eternal conflict between good and evil. It was not brought out until 1893, three years after the composer's death, and was then given at the Concerts du Chatelet under Colonne. Franck worked upon this composition for ten years, and musicians throughout the world have deplored the fact that he should have died without hearing a performance of the great work. In his symphonic poems Franck wrote several highly interesting examples of descriptive or program music, among the finest modern works of their kind. His   Redemption in two parts and an intermezzo is a veritable musical poem. His organ chorals, written in the form  created by Bach, are by most musicians  considered his best works. Of his many symphonic poems there are worthy of mention Psyche; Les fiolides, which was performed at the Concerts du Chatelet in 1890; Les Djinns and Le Chasseur Maudit. Franck wrote one great opera, Hulda, which deals with a Viking story. Another opera, Ghiselle, or Ghisele, was not finished by the composer, but was completed after .his death by his pupils. Both this opera and Hulda have been performed at Monte Carlo since his death. Franck was a wonderful executant on the organ, was greatly attached to the instrument and his interpretations $ were in the true ecclesiastical spirit. He was seldom heard in public recitals, but at the Paris Exposition in 1878 he appeared with other organists in an exhibition on the grand organ at the Trocadero. For the organ he wrote fifty-nine pieces, which were published posthumously in 1892, under the title L'Organiste. In the realm of sacred music Franck composed masses, motets, offertories and pieces for the harmonium. He also wrote considerable chamber-music, most of it strikingly effective, and that he could unbend and write other than sacred compositions is shown in his   Le Mariage des Roses, a dainty little love-song, as well as in his beautiful part-songs for female voices. His music was, however, for the most part too high class to ever attain to any degree of popularity. All are agreed that he will never be a popular composer because he was too thoughtful, too subtle and not sufficiently dramatic. Saint-Saens, his distinguished contemporary, once described his music as " cathedralesque " and "in listening to it one can almost see the pillars and arches, the candle light and the bowed devotees at prayer." Although fame was so Ion? denied him, Franck now ranks among the great composers of his time, and has received at last a portion of the recognition that should have been his during his life-time. He is held in high honor by the younger French School, of which he may be justly called the founder. Its members are promulgating his theories and striving to follow where he led, into paths of true art. In personal appearance Franck was plain. His face was rugged and he wore ugly gray whiskers, yet many saw in his expression a resemblance to Beethoven, especially about his forehead and his finely developed brow, kindly contemplative expression and full, well-cut mouth. Cesar Franck died at Paris, in 1890, in the fulness of his powers. His obsequies were simple, only his loved pupils and a few friends following his body to its last resting place in a Paris cemetery.