200 jaar César Franck
C. Franck: Sonata in A for Violin and Piano (arr. for piano four-hands by A. Cortot)
With his breathtaking organ playing, highly individual teaching method and the talented students of the ‘bande à Franck’, César Franck has extensively influenced the course of early modern French music history. Franck was a keyboard wizard, thus his compositions for organ and harmonium in particular reflect the technical mastery and the sometimes startling modernity of his musical language. Furthermore, Franck has written some of the most powerful and lasting chamber music of the early 20th century. His Piano Quintet in F Minor (1879), String Quartet in D Major (1889) and Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano (1886 – a present for another Belgian, Eugène Ysaÿe) practically fulfil the French dream of a “strong national repertoire” on their own.
Alfred Cortot, renowned as one of the great Golden Age pianists and an indomitable Chopinist transcribed Franck's Violin Sonata to the monumental piano duet piece. Even after knowing the original Violin Sonata, this arrangement convinces that Franck's Sonata is self-sufficient without the violin.
G. Fauré: Dolly Suite Op. 56
Fauré strove to bring together the best of traditional and progressive music and, in the process, created some of the most exquisite works in the French repertoire. He was one of the most advanced figures in French musical circles and influenced a generation of composers world-wide.
Fauré wrote the Dolly Suite for piano duet between 1894 and 1897 and dedicated it to daughter of composer's mistress Emma Bardac, known as "Dolly" . The first public performance of the suite was given by Alfred Cortot and Édouard Risler in 1898.
C. Saint-Saëns: Le Carnaval des Animaux
Like Mozart, Camille Saint-Saëns was a child prodigy. At two he could pick out tunes on the piano. At the age of three he composed his first piece, and by seven he was giving public concerts as a pianist and organist. When he was ten, he made his public debut and offered to play any one of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas from memory. He had total recall of anything he had ever read. His style of music was traditional and conservative and for the most part followed classical traditions.
Natural History fascinated Saint Saens, who liked nothing better than a day out at the zoo. He composed The Carnival of Animals to play with his friends at an 1886 Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday) celebration. Through his musical sketches of animals, Saint Saens makes fun of composers like Rossini, Mendelssohn, Offenbach - and even himself! He humorously describes the work as ‘a grand zoological fantasy’, with the message that people (and especially musicians) really shouldn’t take themselves too seriously.