Eduard Franck String Sextet 1

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Eduard Franck: String Sextet No.1 (1850's)

I. Allegro - 00:00
II. Andante - 13:20
III. Allegro - 23:17
IV. Presto - 29:26

Eduard Franck (1817-1893) was born in Breslau, the capital of the Prussian province of Silesia. He was the fourth child of a wealthy and cultivated banker who exposed his children to the best and brightest that Germany had to offer. Frequenters to the Franck home included such luminaries as Heine, Humboldt, Heller, Mendelssohn, and Wagner. His family's financial position allowed Franck to study with Mendelssohn as a private student in Dusseldorf and later in Leipzig. As a talented pianist, he embarked upon a dual career as a concert artist and teacher for more than four decades during the course of which he held many positions. Although he was highly regarded as both a teacher and performer, he never achieved the public recognition of his better known contemporaries such as Mendelssohn, Schumann or Liszt. As fine a pianist as the first two and perhaps even a better teacher, the fact that he failed to publish very many of his compositions until toward the end of his life, in part, explains why he was not better known. Said to be a perfectionist, he continually delayed releasing his works until they were polished to his demanding standards. Schumann, among others, thought quite highly of the few works he did publish during the first part of his life.

His chamber music must be ranked amongs his finest compositions. Wilhelm Altmann, probably the most important chamber music critic of the 20th century, in writing of Franck's chamber music, comments:

"This excellent composer does not deserve the neglect with which he has been treated. He had a mastery of form and a lively imagination which is clearly reflected in the fine and attractive ideas one finds in his works."

In this sparkling sextet, we are never far from the influence of Franck's great teacher and inspiration, Mendelssohn. This influence shows itself not only melodically but also in the lightness of touch which Franck employs. It stands in stark contrast to the heavy, full-bodied sextet writing of Brahms. Here, we find clarity of line and an amazing weightlessness, especially for an ensemble two thirds of which are lower voices. Yet at the same time, Franck differs from Mendelssohn in how he makes the most of the sonic possibilities of a large ensemble.

The opening theme to the first movement, Allegro, is genial and somewhat relaxed. But slowly tension is built, primarily by means of the rustling notes which are passed from voice. A very Mendelssohnian technique. The the very lovely second theme provides a wonderful contrast. The quiet second movement, Andante, has a pastorale quality to it. Quiet and unassuming, it ticks along peacefully but then gradually begins to build tension until, the first violin brings forth a melody of extraordinary beauty. Next comes a lively and energetic scherzo, which has a more lyrical and relaxed theme for its trio section. The exciting finale, Presto, is filled with elan and fetching melodies.