Franck: Symphony in D minor, or the result of too much time and too many scores

King of the mutton chops, which is not the best title to hold...

King of the mutton chops, which is not the best title to hold…

So I’ve moved off to college and I’ve settled down nice and good. What does the really entail? Basically I’m spending most of my time either in music classes, writing music/practicing, or in the score library. I visited the library twice today; the first time I was there I listened to the first half of Boulez’s “Le marteau san maitre” until I realized I couldn’t tolerate it any longer, and Bartok’s 3rd String Quartet, which I had no trouble tolerating, and quite enjoyed. Later I dived into Stravinsky’s “Histoire du soldat” which I had somehow forgotten how awesome that piece is. I still had nothing to do so I just grabbed the Franck D minor symphony (of which there were about 15 copies of the score. Also there were 10 of Histoire, which by the way is really fucking awesome, I think I mentioned that…) I had heard of the symphony and composer before, but had never heard any music by Franck. I had read that he has gotten a good deal of hate from some critics, especially on the present symphony, so I mostly wanted to see what the ruckus was about.

In one way I can see why some people don’t like it. The forms are a bit open ended, which isn’t a bad thing, and sometimes, the chromatic harmonies are overly saccharine. But I still think the work is really great. I knew it was a cyclic work so when the theme from the second movement came back in the finale I thought “Jeez, why did he choose the lamest music to recapitulate? Why didn’t he use that cool theme from the first movement?” and then later he did actually use the aformentioned cool theme, when the music went into B-flat. Throughout the finale there are so many places that were so much like other themes. I kept hearing something that was so close to the creeping bass intro, but it wasn’t, but it was so close! There were several places that were very Bruckner-esque, and it’s easy to draw the comparison between the two: both were organists, and late romantics coming from the Wagner line. Some of the orchestration is similar as well, but I still think ol’ Anton did it better, just me though.

All and all, despite it’s faults, Franck’s D minor symphony isn’t a bad piece of music. When the harmony isn’t overly sweet, it’s actually really good, and there are several really big powerful powerful spots. Give it a listen if you haven’t, and hell, even if you have, try it again. There is something in there.

About Why must you use all the notes

So much to do, so little reason to do so much of it...
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2 Responses to Franck: Symphony in D minor, or the result of too much time and too many scores

  1. frgbnd12 says:

    I never had much taste for his Symphony either. The only Franck piece I’ve enjoyed so far has been “Le Chasseur Maudit.”

  2. crackladen says:

    I’m a huge fan of the Franck Symphony, and the “French Romantic” symphony model in general. If you get a chance, check out the Symphony no. 3 by Alberic Magnard. Peak of the form IMO.

    The Franck used to be really popular actually, but it’s faded dramatically in the last 30 years or so to the point that its damn near a novelty. I’m glad to know someone young has at least some good thoughts about it!

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