Composer. He was an important figure of late French Romanticism. The serenity and mysticism of his instrumental music reflected his religious temperament. Franck's Symphony in D Minor (1889) is a standard of the orchestral repertory. His other notable compositions include the Quintet in F Minor (1879), the oratorio "Les Beatitudes" (1880), the "Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue" (1884) for piano, the "Symphonic Variations" (1885) for piano and orchestra, the Sonata in A Major (1886) for violin and piano, the String Quartet in D Major (1890), and the "Three Chorales" for organ (1890). Many of these works use Franck's innovation of "cyclical form", in which themes from the beginning are repeated at the end to achieve structural unity. This method influenced many younger composers, including Franck's pupils Vincent d'Indy and Ernest Chausson. Franck was born in Liege, Belgium, and studied at the Paris Conservatory. During his lifetime he was known primarily as an organist and teacher; after hearing him play, Franz Liszt exclaimed that Bach had been reincarnated. He was organist at the Sainte-Clotilde Church from 1858 until his death, professor of organ at the Paris Conservatory from 1872, and active as a private teacher. Described by those who knew him as a lovable, absent-minded eccentric, Franck was a familiar sight in the streets of Paris, humming and muttering to himself as he hurried from one job to another. His teaching methods were demonstrative rather than didactic, and he encouraged his students to find their own creative paths. As a composer Franck developed slowly and all his major works date from the last dozen years of his life. They were also initially met with hostility and derision. The Symphony in D Minor was a fiasco at its Paris premiere; rival composer Charles Gounod called it, "the affirmation of incompetence pushed to dogmatic lengths". Only once did Franck enjoy success with his music. When his String Quartet was given an ovation in April 1890, he turned to d'Indy with tears in his eyes and said, "There you see, the public is at last beginning to understand me". A few weeks later Franck was accidentally struck by a horse-drawn trolley and never recovered from his injuries. Claude Debussy wrote of him, "This man who was unfortunate and unrecognized, possessed the soul of a child, and one so good that neither contradictory circumstances nor the wickedness of others could ever make him feel bitter."
Bio by: Bobb Edwards
Felicite Saillot Desmousseaux Franck