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César Franck

His Life and Times

R. J. Stove

César Franck (1822–1890), Belgian born and French domiciled, was one of the most remarkable composers of the 19th century. A number of his works are commonly recorded—such as his Symphony in D Minor, Symphonic Variations, Violin Sonata, and the ever-popular Panis Angelicus—and yet 38 years have elapsed since a biography of him appeared in English.

Now with
César Franck: His Life and Times, R. J. Stove fills this gap in the history of late 19th-century classical music with a full-length study of the man and his music. Drawing on sources never before cited in English, Stove paints a far more detailed picture of this great musician and deeply loved man, whose influence in both his native and adopted lands was exceptional. Stove carefully delves into intimate matters of Franck’s life, including his resilience in the face of his exploitation as a child prodigy at the piano, his development from a shy and harassed piano teacher into one of the most sought-after luminaries of Paris’s Conservatoire, and the truth behind Franck’s alleged affair with one of his students.

Throughout his study, Stove interweaves panoramic surveys of the political and social scene in Belgium and France, contextualizing Franck’s achievements in his historical milieu, from his rise as a recognized master of the organ to his dealings with significant composers such as Liszt, Gounod, Saint-Saëns, Massenet, Chabrier, and others.
César Franck: His Life and Times is an engagingly written biography sure to interest classical music listeners of all stripes.
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Scarecrow Press
Pages: 368Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
978-0-8108-8207-2 • Hardback • December 2011 • $46.00 • (£31.95)
978-0-8108-8208-9 • eBook • December 2011 • $43.00 • (£29.95)
R. J. Stove is an organist who has publicly performed several of César Franck’s pieces. He is also the author of articles on a variety of musical topics, which have seen publication in Modern Age, The University Bookman, The New Criterion, Organ Australia, Britain’s Musical Times, and other periodicals. His books include A Student’s Guide to Music History (2007), The Unsleeping Eye (2003), and Prince of Music (1990).
Nineteenth-century composer César Franck spent most of his career teaching at the Conservatoire de Paris and serving as organist at Sainte-Clotilde. Only late in life did he achieve fame through a handful of important chamber and orchestral compositions, several of which continued to be performed regularly during the first half of the 20th century. Franck's reputation has suffered, however, since the 1960s. Stove (a performing organist based in Melbourne, Australia) has produced a fresh, eminently readable biography of the composer, the first in English to be based on extensive familiarity with (and translation of) the composer's letters and other primary sources. With the goal of inspiring "better comprehension of Franck himself," the author focuses on Franck's life and the critical reception of his music while the composer was alive and in the century since his death. The result is a fine (and often entertaining) introduction to the man, his compositions, and the political, social, and cultural contexts that shaped both Franck and his music....Summing Up: Recommended.

R.J. Stove’s intensively researched biography of Belgian French composer César Franck (1822-1890) has striking merits. Stove writes exquisitely, in periodic sentences, and manages to make detailed discussions of musicology an aesthetic experience for experts and neophytes alike. He also blends his musical discussions with well-told anecdotes, the most appealing of which is his recounting of Franck’s passion for a young beauty with an Irish father, Augusta Mary Anne Holmès.

The American Conservative

Stove notes a resuscitation of interest in Franck starting in 1990, the 100th anniversary of the composer's death, with a flurry on concert performances and new recordings of long neglected works. Never before has his music been so readily available in commercial recordings.
American Record Guide

This book is not quite for the ordinary reader, but having said that, it would be a huge compliment to give someone a copy of it. It would be a way of saying, “You have sufficient general education and interest in music to make this of more than passing interest to your good self.
Quadrant: The Journal of the C.G. Jung Foundation

Stove has done an admirable job in evoking Franck and his world, as well as giving us a fairly balanced appreciated of his life’s work…. Interesting connections made between people and compositions, as well as the author’s own insights, attest to the depth of Stove’s research.
Limelight Magazine

This book will not be the last word on Franck, but Stove presents us with a readable portrait which will certainly appeal to those for whom Franck is still a bit of a mystery.
Salisbury Review

What makes Stove’s biography especially interesting is not just the author’s own musical expertise, which enables him to go way beyond a standard biographer in analysing Franck’s work, but the way he weaves in the historical background… Cesar Franck: His Life and Times reminds us that artistic geniuses don’t have to be tortured souls with problematic personalities.
Spectator Australia

Stove has chosen to eschew scholarly detachment in treating his subject’s life, and the reward in engagement and sheer wit is considerable, while the extensive annotations reveal just how carefully and thoroughly the author has done his research.
Organ Australia

It is the first study of the composer in English for some time, and even an audience already familiar with the subject will welcome its extensive quotation from contemporary sources.
Choir & Organ

Stove has delivered scrupulous scholarship, correcting errors of earlier writers and providing a full scholarly scaffolding of bibliography and endnotes.

“This is an admirably thorough and detailed exploration not only of Franck himself, but also of his historical environment and varied connections, done with obvious sympathy and admiration but without failing to present all sides in the critical spectrum”

“We get a wide range of opinion about the man and his music and a feeling that the author knows intimately the music he describes care and detail. And we have confidence that he has gone the extra mile to correct little discrepancies and inaccuracies that have been perpetuated in Franck scholarship to date”

“It is fascinating reading, and the author has no hesitation in pursuing amusing side stories or interesting political historical settings. Don’t miss the notes which are often very funny”

“The book is full of engaging and charming turns of phrase and wry observations.”

This is a very rich book, full of surprises and interest and written in a very appealing and lively way. It should reignite interest in works other than the few standard ones and round out our ideas of Franck’s legacy. I strongly recommend it.”

Annals Australasia

Overall I found this a diverting read and appreciated a writer whose turn of phrase and command of English prose never fail to delight, itself an all-too-rare event these days.
Organz News