Belgian-born composer, organist and teacher, César Franck (1822-1890) was a great admirer of J S Bach. To that end, much of Franck’s music is imbued with the contrapuntal rigour and chromaticism of the German Baroque master and illustrated, for example, in one of his best-known piano works, the Prélude, choral et fugue. Franck also kept abreast of current musical developments and was an early champion in France of the Lisztian symphonic poem. Les Djinns (1884), for orchestra and piano, is the most famous of Franck’s symphonic poems. Psyché, a multi-movement symphonic poem for orchestra and chorus, is also an important (and unjustly neglected) work. Franck wrote a considerable body of sacred music and his chamber music includes a piano quintet, string quartet and violin sonata. His pupils at the Paris Conservatoire included d’Indy, Vierne and Lekeu. Bizet and Debussy also sat in on some of his classes. Franck died in tragic circumstances: he was struck by a horse-drawn bus.

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