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César Franck – A New French Unity

HESTER, NICHOLAS (2015) César Franck – A New French Unity. MA by research thesis, University of York.

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César Franck (1826-1890), a Belgian who spent most of his life in Paris (before eventually taking French nationality in 1873), remains one of the most undervalued of all composers. Towards the end of his life, from the 1870s onwards, the French capital was a turbulent place to be a musician – after a long period of Austro-German musical dominance during much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the outcome of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) inspired a great change in musical circles. Franck’s contemporaries began to reject this music in favour of revitalising their native tradition that had been dormant since the Baroque period, as they endeavoured to create and promote a style of music that was distinctly French – and it was during this time that Franck would write a handful of works are considered to be his greatest achievements. But, whilst he did follow the nationalistic tendencies of his contemporaries to some extent in his late output, he always maintained a more personal and cosmopolitan approach to composition. One of the main aspects of this cosmopolitanism was his deep admiration of the Baroque and Classical masters of Austro-Germany, as well as Liszt, and it is structural unity – a concept synonymous with this tradition – that forms the analytical focus here. The idea of a multi-movement work possessing the overarching effect of a singular musical journey is a fundamental aspect of Franck's compositional approach, and whilst his use of cyclic recurrence is already quite well documented, this thesis aims to demonstrate that his distinctly French harnessing of structural unity runs deeper than this relatively straightforward motivic technique. By taking into account such issues as Franck's innate spirituality and the nationalistic climate of late nineteenth century Paris, this dissertation aims to reveal what makes Franck’s late style so personal and to redress the balance of critical neglect, through an investigation of how a French composer might adopt the Austro-German principle of structural unity in three particular late works: • Prelude, Chorale & Fugue (1884) • Violin Sonata (1886) • Prelude, Aria & Finale (1887)

Item Type: Thesis (MA by research)
Academic Units: The University of York > Music (York)
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2015 15:57
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2015 15:57
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/10073

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