Cesar Franck (1822-1890)
Once ignored by most, Cesar Franck is only now earning recognition for being an immensely talented Romantic composer. Franck, a Belgian who spent much of his life in France, was a proficient pianist and organist; he wrote many important works for the organ repertoire and gave up a virtuoso career to live a modest life as an organist for a Paris church. Characteristics of Franck's music include cyclic form, chromatic movement, and constant modulation. As a composer, Franck didn't mature until late in his career, and his fame is based on a relatively small batch of pieces: the most famous are his Wagneresque symphony, the epic Prelude, Chorale and Fugue for piano, and his Piano quintet of 1879.
This Piano quintet is very progressive and difficult for its time; the pianist at the premiere was the more conservative Camille Saint Saens, and he loathed the piece so much that he didn't even wait for applause at the end of the performance and stormed off the stage. Franck's own wife hated the piano quintet, which was nothing like normal delicate French music; this piece, especially the last movement, is as dramatic and intense as any of Wagner's works. I just recently bought the recording of this, and it is already among my favorite pieces of Romantic chamber music.
Cesar Franck- Piano Quintet
Ludwig String Quartet
Michael Levinas, Piano