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Cesar Franck: Final


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Guest Cynic

Stimulated by David Thornton's topic regarding Franck's Choral in B minor, I am anxious to find out about favoured speeds for CF's Final. Most particularly I'd like to know if members of this forum either speed up (as I do) or try hard to keep the initial pulse. Those with recorded versions to hand, I would be particularly glad if you could perhaps offer us metronome marks taken from interpretations that you find work well even with repeated hearings.

 

As noted above, I find that the pulse which seems just right for the first 2/3 seems too cautious for the final four pages or so. From this point on, I like to let it all hang out and go for broke, but is this a grave error on my part? I know several instances where romantic composers (including Schumann - some years before Franck - in Fugue no.6 on BACH) have quite clearly called for a progressive increase in speed. Reger does it all the time. After all, this is not Bach or Buxtehude, it's a later romantic idea...what do people think?

 

If I remember correctly, this piece was written for the opening of the organ at the Trocadero and was played by Lefebure-Wely - someone with enough panache for several of us put together!

 

 

WHOOPS!! - DEAR MODERATOR, I'VE POSTED THIS UNDER THE WRONG HEADING. THIS SHOULD BE IN 'THE ORGAN AND ITS MUSIC'

ANY CHANCE OF MOVING IT?

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Guest Roffensis

I don't think this piece benefits from speeding up towards the end. I would err on the side of caution and certainly keep to a static beat throughout. You could then set your own overall pace?, which varies a lot between players. Noel Rawsthorne perhaps the best?

 

Regards,

 

R

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Guest Cynic
I don't think this piece benefits from speeding up towards the end. I would err on the side of caution and certainly keep to a static beat throughout. You could then set your own overall pace?, which varies a lot between players. Noel Rawsthorne perhaps the best?

 

Regards,

 

R

 

 

Thanks, Richard.

Any chance of a metronome on the speed Noel Rawsthorne starts and finishes on?

This would be both kind and interesting.

 

P.

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Hi Paul

 

What a good thing to discuss!!

 

I've listened and measured Jean Costa's recording for you:

 

Opening - crotchet = 120

Quaver movement before the final 2 pages - minim = 92

Chordal section (with dotted pedal) on final 2 pages - minim = 72

Total play time = 11'37''

 

I heard a friend's recording of M-C Alain on the Erato label over the weekend. She pushes the tempo much more - there's a lot more urgency to it while Costa is more reserved. Despite myself, I have to say I much prefer M-C Alain's recording. According to iTunes, she times in at 11'05''. The free sample on iTunes shows her opening (the pedal solo) is much slower. The iTunes sample also picks up an annoying mixture break in her pedal opening at St Etienne in Caen. I think it's a piece that needs lots of panache to make it work and pull it off - its affekt and general writing are hardly scholarly... :)

 

Interesting comments about Schumann too. Yes, the 6th Fugue speeds up and Schumann also asks for the first fugue to pick up speed from the middle onwards. I also accelerate the 4th fugue a bit, starting off at about crotchet = 92, speeding only gradually to about 104-108. It seems justified with the writing and crescendo from mf to ff for the final 2 pages. Also published at about the same time (1845) Mendelssohn asks for the semiquaver section of the 3rd sonata to pick up speed gradually from crotchet = 72 to crotchet = 100 when it returns to the major (but asks for a rit to the original tempo in the final 2 bars). (BTW, I've just realised you've recorded the Schumann Fugues at Southwell and I haven't heard it so I'm ordering a CD...)

 

Hope this helps

 

Best wishes

 

Colin

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Tempo in Franck is a fascinating subject, made rather thorny by the publication of Franck's intended tempo markings for the Six Pieces in the new-ish biography by Joel-Marie Faucquet (I think that's his name). These tempi, as most board-ers will know, are quicker than we are (or were) used to hearing these pieces. Joris Verdin is perhaps the pre-eminent modern scholar on all things early-French-Romantic - he adopts the Faucqet tempi in their entirety. Listen to his recording in Rouen, it's more interesting than convicing for my money. JV always says that the pianists in his organ class in Antwerp play in these quicker tempi without his (JV's) prompting and that Franck wouldn't have made such a tempo distinction between organ and piano playing. I would say, "but who says the pianists are right??".

 

Joris V. also talks a lot about the myth of the Frank tradition as passed on through Tournemire who he sees as a break in the tradition rather than a continuation, and from whom the idea of the 'pere angelique' seems to have eminanted.

 

I don't believe there is any relation at all between Franck and the stringendo of the German Romantic tradition. The end of Final for me gets freer if not significantly quicker.

 

The recording I like is Jeanne Demessieux from her complete Franck cycle. It is quick but less chaotic than Joris Verdin's recording.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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Guest Roffensis
Thanks, Richard.

Any chance of a metronome on the speed Noel Rawsthorne starts and finishes on?

This would be both kind and interesting.

 

P.

 

About 110 or so.

 

Hope this helps!

 

Regards,

 

R

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Rollin Smith (in 'Playing the Organ Works of César Franck) gives the following speeds, from editions (Tournemire and Dupré) and recordings (Marchal and Langlais):

 

Allegro maestoso

Tournemire: crotchet = 132 (Tempo fluctuations are left to the player's discretion)

Dupré: crotchet = 112

Marchal: crotchet = 126

Langlais: crotchet = 126-132

 

bar 305

Tournemire: crotchet = 132

Dupré: crotchet = 132 Più mosso

Marchal: crotchet = 108*

Langlais: crotchet = 160

 

* Smith says 'Dupré, Marchal and Langlais interpreted the ending considerably faster than the rest of the piece', so this figure may be a misprint (crotchet = 180?)

 

Regarding the controversial metronome markings, William Whitehead wrote an article 'New Perspectives in Franck Studies' in the 2003-4 RCO Journal, quoting a hypothesis proposed by Tom van Eck that Franck was reading his metronome wrongly - from beneath the wedge rather than above - and his markings should be therefore be reduced by 20%. (The same theory has been proposed for the metronome markings in Vierne 3, which many find ludicrous.)

Franck's tempo of minim = 100 would come out as minim = 76-78 - still faster than all the interpretations above. In general, adjusting Franck's metronome markings in this way and comparing them with the speeds of the 4 players mentioned above show that Franck's tempi were more extreme - the slows slower and the fasts faster.

 

Paul

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Guest Cynic
Rollin Smith (in 'Playing the Organ Works of César Franck) gives the following speeds, from editions (Tournemire and Dupré) and recordings (Marchal and Langlais):

 

Allegro maestoso

Tournemire: crotchet = 132 (Tempo fluctuations are left to the player's discretion)

Dupré: crotchet = 112

Marchal: crotchet = 126

Langlais: crotchet = 126-132

 

bar 305

Tournemire: crotchet = 132

Dupré: crotchet = 132 Più mosso

Marchal: crotchet = 108*

Langlais: crotchet = 160

 

* Smith says 'Dupré, Marchal and Langlais interpreted the ending considerably faster than the rest of the piece', so this figure may be a misprint (crotchet = 180?)

 

Regarding the controversial metronome markings, William Whitehead wrote an article 'New Perspectives in Franck Studies' in the 2003-4 RCO Journal, quoting a hypothesis proposed by Tom van Eck that Franck was reading his metronome wrongly - from beneath the wedge rather than above - and his markings should be therefore be reduced by 20%. (The same theory has been proposed for the metronome markings in Vierne 3, which many find ludicrous.)

Franck's tempo of minim = 100 would come out as minim = 76-78 - still faster than all the interpretations above. In general, adjusting Franck's metronome markings in this way and comparing them with the speeds of the 4 players mentioned above show that Franck's tempi were more extreme - the slows slower and the fasts faster.

 

Paul

 

Just the sort of information I was hoping someone would come forward with. Many thanks for this, Paul.

So.... I'm not alone! - some very fancy names also speed up towards the end.

 

All observations welcomed, pity not many seem to have found this topic (lurking in the wrong column as it does).

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It's had 330 views even if it is in the 'wrong column'. That's pretty good.

 

Maybe people were busy in the week calculating the impact of the 50% rate :mellow: and were waiting for today to get their metronomes out.

 

J

 

 

SNIP

All observations welcomed, pity not many seem to have found this topic (lurking in the wrong column as it does).

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Jennifer Bate at Beauvais:

 

Whole piece 12.32

Opens at 120 to 126 bpm

The 'chordal section at 138 to 144 bpm (I'm not counting bars after what happened with the Chorale No.2!)

From the section with the pauses onwards the performance becomes quite rhapsodical, with a stringendo in the section with the 'off beat' chords.

It's a convincing performance but a fair bit of the triplet figuration is lost in the acoustic.

 

The only other recording of Final I have is Arthur Wills' GCOS recording from Ely, but as I sold the turntable a few years ago, I can't play it!

 

I enjoy the Bate CF set; strangely the only piece which I have reservations about is GPS (which we discussed on another thread), it's the only one in which she doesn't sound in total control. There's a very bad edit in the central Allegro section, and this and other fast sections sound hurried - IMHO.

 

DT

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Just the sort of information I was hoping someone would come forward with. Many thanks for this, Paul.

So.... I'm not alone! - some very fancy names also speed up towards the end.

 

All observations welcomed, pity not many seem to have found this topic (lurking in the wrong column as it does).

 

Further amendments:

I have listened to Marchal, Langlais, M-C Alain, Sanger, Pincemaille and Lebrun. All the players take the last few pages faster than the opening.

 

Having re-read Paul Walton's quote from Rollin Smith, three short passages starting at bar 306 are indeed taken at 160 by Langlais and 180 by Marchal, easing back slightly at bar 336.

 

David Sanger makes quite a brisk 134-ish start increasing to 144-ish at the end, a speed at which Pierre Pincemaille starts! My favourite remains Langlais, but then his was the first performance of this work that I ever heard, so it made quite an impression.

JC

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Rollin Smith (in 'Playing the Organ Works of César Franck) gives the following speeds, from editions (Tournemire and Dupré) and recordings (Marchal and Langlais):

 

Allegro maestoso

Tournemire: crotchet = 132 (Tempo fluctuations are left to the player's discretion)

Dupré: crotchet = 112

Marchal: crotchet = 126

Langlais: crotchet = 126-132

 

bar 305

Tournemire: crotchet = 132

Dupré: crotchet = 132 Più mosso

Marchal: crotchet = 108*

Langlais: crotchet = 160

 

* Smith says 'Dupré, Marchal and Langlais interpreted the ending considerably faster than the rest of the piece', so this figure may be a misprint (crotchet = 180?)

 

Regarding the controversial metronome markings, William Whitehead wrote an article 'New Perspectives in Franck Studies' in the 2003-4 RCO Journal, quoting a hypothesis proposed by Tom van Eck that Franck was reading his metronome wrongly - from beneath the wedge rather than above - and his markings should be therefore be reduced by 20%. (The same theory has been proposed for the metronome markings in Vierne 3, which many find ludicrous.)

Franck's tempo of minim = 100 would come out as minim = 76-78 - still faster than all the interpretations above. In general, adjusting Franck's metronome markings in this way and comparing them with the speeds of the 4 players mentioned above show that Franck's tempi were more extreme - the slows slower and the fasts faster.

 

Paul

 

 

I have an excellent recording played by Susan Landale from St. Étienne de Caen and from 359 to the end there is a little accelerando but totally justified. With regard to overall tempo I've always been a bit cautious with it but my Franck edition (Wiener Urtext Edition Schott/Universal ed.Gunther Kaunzinger) gives no indication of a metronome speed. The original edition of Franck organ works were by Durand and published in 1880. I've often hear English organists play the Prelude Fugue and Variation and Pastorale played so slow, I wonder if Franck played like that at all.

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I've often hear English organists play the Prelude Fugue and Variation and Pastorale played so slow, I wonder if Franck played like that at all.

 

Franck's metronome markings, as adjusted by Tom van Eck (see above), with the original figures Franck wrote in brackets and comparisons with some other players are:

 

Prelude, Fugue and Variation

Prelude: dotted crotchet = 48-51 (72) / 52-54 (Langlais) / 54 (Marchal) / 60 (Tournemire) / 63 (Dupré)

Lento: crotchet = 40-42 (60) / 48-58 (Marshal) / 58 (Dupré) / 66 (Langlais)

Fugue: crotchet = 90-92 (112) / 88 (Marshal, Tournemire and Dupré) / 100 (Langlais)

Variation: as Prelude, except Marshal is 56

 

Pastorale:

Andantino: crotchet = 54-56 (76) / 50 (Tournemire recording) / 54-58 (Marshal) / 56 (Langlais) / 58 (Tournemire edition) / 60 (Dupré)

Quasi allegretto: crotchet = 104 (126) / 100 (Tournemire edition) / 104 (Marshal) / 108 (Dupré and Langlais) / 120 (Tournemire recording)

Andantino: as before except Langlais is 69

 

Paul

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Guest Cynic
Controversy Alert

I would suggest that a pretty brisk tempo is required for the Final. The piece is of far slighter musical stature than the rest of the Franck masterworks, and can very easily outstay its welcome.

 

 

I know what you mean, but I would suggest that it is far from being a poor work in any way, it is just of a different concept from the mature Franck works. This is not a cry from the heart, but it is a piece of real distinction. I might describe it as 'young man's music' - but for all that, it may well be right up there with the greatest music of its time. On a decent organ, it is a big thrill and by no means lacking in integrity or content.

 

I'll never forget the first time I heard it. It was being played by Francis Grier on that wonderful big Hill organ at Eton - I was sixteen or seventeen at the time, it really blew me away! I am most grateful for the various contributions above. I know how I like the work, and I know it well. I merely wanted to check whether I have got it badly wrong in my own mind or whether others have independently thought similar things. You know how it is, one can get fond of an interpretation only to be firmly told that all recent research shows one's taste to be thoroughly out of step!

 

The end (to me) is no more shallow or dull than, for instance Carillon-Sortie, Tu es Petra or the Widor Toccata. One does need to be able to fly, that's all! Turns out that lots of top class people have thought the same. Great.

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Controversy Alert

I would suggest that a pretty brisk tempo is required for the Final. The piece is of far slighter musical stature than the rest of the Franck masterworks, and can very easily outstay its welcome.

Just to stoke up the controversy, I would also mention the last section of Grand Pièce Symphonique as a piece that can outstay its welcome, though I love the remainder of the work.

 

I rather wish I hadn't read the recommended tempi for Pastorale and Prélude, Fugue and Variation. I will guiltily admit that I prefer the outer sections of both works to be gentle, contrasting a more energetic approach to the quasi allegretto and fugue respectively.

JC

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I'll never forget the first time I heard it. It was being played by Francis Grier on that wonderful big Hill organ at Eton - I was sixteen or seventeen at the time, it really blew me away!

Presumably, then, this was when Francis was a music scholar at the school. If so his interpretation would very probably have owed a lot to Sidney Campbell since he had previously been a choirboy at Windsor. The Final was one of Campbell's favourite warhorses. The piece never interested me so I can't recall his interpretation in detail, but I am fairly sure that he pushed the speed on somewhat towards the end; at least my recollection of how he played both ends of the piece suggests this.

 

I rather wish I hadn't read the recommended tempi for Pastorale and Prélude, Fugue and Variation. I will guiltily admit that I prefer the outer sections of both works to be gentle, contrasting a more energetic approach to the quasi allegretto and fugue respectively.

You and me both!

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The only other recording of Final I have is Arthur Wills' GCOS recording from Ely, but as I sold the turntable a few years ago, I can't play it!

 

While it must be almost 25 years since I last heard it, my memory of the Arthur Wills recording is that it was taken at speed that was somewhere between "stately" and "ponderous".

 

I also seem to recall a recording by Michael Austin from Birmingham Town Hall which was taken at a somewhat faster pace.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The Final is one of Franck's 'Great 12' I've never really bothered to look at. The previously mentioned Priere is one that I've tried on numerous occasions - and succeeded in learning most of the work to a fairly decent standard. It's that central section with the cross-rhythms (I'm sure most know which section of the piece I refer to!) that I can never seem to perfect. I'd love to get it completed as it really is one of the most profoundly moving organ works I've ever come across. Any advice upon performing this work would be gratefully accepted.

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Guest Cynic
The Final is one of Franck's 'Great 12' I've never really bothered to look at. The previously mentioned Priere is one that I've tried on numerous occasions - and succeeded in learning most of the work to a fairly decent standard. It's that central section with the cross-rhythms (I'm sure most know which section of the piece I refer to!) that I can never seem to perfect. I'd love to get it completed as it really is one of the most profoundly moving organ works I've ever come across. Any advice upon performing this work would be gratefully accepted.

 

 

Two things only.

1. Priere is a very fine and moving work, whatever time you spend upon it will be rewarded - assuming that you have the taste for Franck at all. Some people seem to be immune. I once told an audience that 'anyone with soul would respond', I suppose those who didn't were offended by this remark.

 

2. How to learn anything: approach it slowly and methodically. If accidentals get forgotten, mark them in using a 2B pencil*. If fingering needs to be sorted, mark this in and then stick to it. If necessary, learn a hand at a time and a bar at a time. Set yourself to learn a steady amount and it will soon become clear that most pages are no problem - needless to say, the tricky bits have to be playable at the same speed as the rest, so much time may be needed.

 

I have heard a tactic recommended whereby one learns the last page of the target work first, then work back from that. I have to say, this never appealed to me. Being a proficient sight-reader, when young I used to try everything at correct (final) volume and nearly correct (final) speed. Now I know a bit more about learning and how it works - I would say do it slowly. How slowly does not matter at all. Once you can play anything slowly, (always with the same fingering NB) getting it up to speed is nothing like the same challenge. You will have the benefit of knowing (amongst other things) that you are playing it accurately. Once again, I have heard a number of approximate performances of difficult works, usually from youngsters who have decided that effect is everything.

 

 

*IMHO, HB pencils are the spawn of The Evil One - marks with these often fail to show up clearly under console lights and they permanently damage the score.

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