César Franck's "Fugues Vocales"
Dunlevy, Frances Ray
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This thesis deals with an important, so far neglected, document from César Franck's youth. It is titled "Fugues Vocales", and is in the possession of the music room of the Boston Public Library - part of the Alien A. Brown collection. It is a lengthy manuscript, some 309 pages, entirely in the handwriting of the author. It bears signatures and dates. This holograph is so very significant, in that it shows the very severe schooling which Franck had at the Paris Conservatoire, at the ages of fifteen and sixteen. It helps to give us some light as to how Franck was able to write music the way he did, and as to the severe discipline to which he continued to subject himself all through his long productive life. The main source of information available about Franck hus been the writings of his devoted pupils, chief of whom was Vincent D'Indy. There are also the speeches made at the dedication of the monument to Franck at St. Clotilde, and numerous magazine articles, most of which appeared upon the 100th anniversary of his birth, in December 1922. Franck's widow and oldest son George, finally allowed some of his manuscripts, hitherto kept among the papers of the family, to be studied by Julien Tiersot, who has written at some length about them. César-Auguste Franck was born at Liège, Belgium on December 10, 1822. His father was Flemish and his mother German. Frances father wanted him to become a professional pianist, so he very early started a musical careers. His first studies were at the Liège Conservatoire; they were completed at the Paris conservatoire. Even in his student days Franck's work was outstanding. He could transpose easily and perfectly, and could improvise with great skill. His real interest lay in composition, and to this work he devoted several hours of each day all through his long life. In 1872 he succeeded Benoist as organ professor at the Paris Conservatoire, where his organ classes became the real composition classes of the institution. His success as a teacher was so great that his pupils became known as his "disciples", and he as "Father Franck". He had a tremendously sincere interest in all humanity, and the rare faculty of inspiring his pupils to their best creative efforts. His teaching methods were far in advance of his time. He became the very source of the brilliant symphonic school which flowered in France in the last half of the XIXth century, and to which the music world is so greatly indebted. In his lifetime Frenck was unable to secure satisfactory presentations of his own compositions. He lived a spiritual and individual life, not in close tough with his contemporaries. They were jealous of his great talents, and quite incapable of understanding his ways. In his own compositions he leaned strongly toward the church and religious subjects. His great improvisations were done on the church organ at St. Clotilde, and his organ compositions are some of the finest in the literature of that instrument. His other creative work shows the stamp of the organ in it, in its excessive modulation, pauses for registration, contrapuntal style, and majestic spirituality. His compositions include orchestral works, oratorios, operas, some songs, a violin concerto, and piano pieces. He originated the cyclic form. Franck lived almost all of his quiet life in Paris, happily married, spending ail his time teaching and composing. He died there November 8, 1890. César Franck was very meticulous about all his music writing. It was his habit to recopy and preserve all his work. There are three volumes of his student work still preserved in France, in addition to "Fugues Vocales" in the possession of the Boston Public Library. The latter volume was brought here from Paris by Mr. Allen A. Brown, and presented to the library October 1, 1912. There are seventy-six vocal fugues in the collection, worked by Franck while at the Paris Conservatoire, where he was a student of Leborne. The work was begun in October 1837, and the final date, which is not quite clear, reads July 1740? The volume is beautifully written, by hand, in ink, with each fugue spaced so as to cover the page completely. Each fugue is carefully labeled, with the number of parts and the author of the fugue subject noted at the top of each. The fugues range from two to eight parts. Two examination and three competition fugues are contained in the book. In "Fugues Vocales" Franck makes several references to Cherubini's text "Cours de contrepoint et fugue". He has followed Cherubini's rules on fugue writing explicitly. There is a great variety of treatment within these fugue the possibilities of each fugue subject are exhausted in all arrangements - in augmentation, diminution, inversion, canon, stretto, and contrary motion, even in occasional use of retrogression. There is usually some slight modulation in part I. If there is no chromaticism, in the subject, it is very often introduced in the counter-subject. The transition from Part I to Part II is always very difficult to determine, the two parts often seeming continuous. In Part II the modulation is chiefly to closely related keys, the second section often closes on the V chord of the principal key, or its relative minor, or major. Part III is almost, if not always as long and as important as Part II. There is always a clear entrance of Part III, often preceeded by a complete rest. There is great variation in the closing of these fugues. Some have a lone plagel cadence, as if it were intended for an Amen. The minor fugues do not always end in a major chord, as do those of Bach. Through the entire volume "Fugues Vocales" Franck gives his own analysis of what he is doing with the subject. The principal subject is labeled with a Roman numeral I, and the counter-subjects are labeled with the Arabic numerals 2,3 etc. He also notes the "augmentation", "diminution", "inversion",, and "stretto". Apparently after the December 1837 examination, Franck was permitted to use his own themes for the first time, the first one appears on page 63, immediately following the December 18, 1837 examination. Somewhat longer fugues appear after the second examination dated June 14, 1838. There are fifteen fugues with subjects by Franck himself in the collection. I am net at all sure that the fugues appear in the manuscript in the order in which they were worked. Some of the handwriting in the latter part of the book seems like earlier work. The familiar paraphe in the signature does not appear after page 178. Many of the fugues seem more instrumental than vocal, although they almost all have the voice parts listed. Franck uses four different clefs - soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. The G clef does not appear. If my interpretation of the dates is correct, this volume covers three years work. Franck has covered the entire material in the first year's work, with the S part, 2 choir fugue in she examination of June 1838. There seems to he no real advance after that, mere reworking of the same principals with new subjects. A close study of this hook makes one view it with reverence and awe, that so young a pupil could have been so gifted and so mature, and so methodical about perpetuating his routine exercises for posterity. Franck benefited all his long and productive life, however, from the careful training in his youth. Without it he could never have written the works he did in their magnificent contrapuntal style.
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