César Franck, a French composer, is known for his chromatic harmonies and deft usage of counterpoint in his music. He also used a cyclic form, in which all of the thematic content is brought together in a climactic conclusion. César Franck was born on December 10, 1822, in Liège, Belgium, and showed an unusual ability for music as a boy. He started his studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music, where he won awards for singing and piano performance. His family relocated to Paris in 1835. Franck studied piano, counterpoint, fugue, and organ at the Paris Conservatory (1837-1842), where he received prizes. He is well-known for his ability to improvise and play complex music on the spot, transposing it to whatever key he desired. Franck moved to Paris permanently after a two-year stay in Belgium. He started writing and teaching at the same time. He was named organist at Ste-Clotilde in 1858, a role he kept until his death. In 1872, he was named professor of organ at the conservatory, where he drew the attention of several of the conservatory's brightest pupils. Franck seems to have turned his organ classes into composition courses and persuaded a whole generation of French composers to break away from opera (the only kind of music the French public seriously supported at the time) to adopt a more serious attitude toward purely instrumental music, wielding a strong influence on younger composers like Vincent d'Indy, Ernest Chausson, and Henri Duparc. Franck died on November 8, 1890, in Paris.
Franck wrote deliberately and methodically throughout the course of his life. His overall productivity is modest, and his finest works were completed after he turned sixty. The Beatitudes, his most well-known choral piece, was performed in 1879, the same year he completed his Quintet for Piano and Strings, a signature cyclic work. The Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue, written in 1884, is his most well-known piano work, the title implying not only the religious tone that pervades much of Franck's music but also his own appreciation of Johann Sebastian Bach. Franck's Violin Sonata, with its smoothly performed canon in the final movement, and the Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra, a lyric quasi-concerto that handles piano and orchestra equally, was also premiered the following year. The Symphony in D Minor, composed in 1888, adheres to the composer's chosen three-movement form by incorporating the andante and scherzo movements of the classical symphony into a single movement. In the final movement, all of the main themes reappear.
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