Franck – Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano Movement 4: Allegretto poco mosso

by Max Derrickson

César Franck
(Born in Liège, (then) Belgium, December 10, 1822; died in Paris, November 8, 1890)

Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano
Movement 4: Allegretto poco mosso

César Franck, just 13 years old, came to Paris from his home of Belgium in 1835 as a piano prodigy.  It was the beginning, however, of a long journey of failures.  Besides the stiff competition of many like prodigies in Paris, not to mention the presence of Liszt and Chopin, Frank’s father, an almost maniacal promoter, enraged the French public almost to the point of no return.  Franck’s career suffered for it alongside a lifelong general Parisian prejudice for his simply being Belgian.  By 1847, aged 25, Franck essentially retired into the life of church organist and teacher, and remained relatively unknown for decades.  Perhaps it was all the hardship, but his new profession fostered deep commitments to the organ, his students and to his faith.  And, in a happy irony, these three elements conjoined to lead Franck into writing some of France’s most beloved musical gems, among them, the Sonata for Violin, late in his life.

Just as Wagner had his disciples, so eventually did Franck, among them Vincent D’Indy, [. . .]  Of his spirituality, his students referred to him as “Father Franck,” both for his paternal and religious qualities.  All of these factors played their part in Franck’s compositions.  When we come to the last movement of his Sonata for Violin, we find ourselves immersed into a world of the sound and sonority of the registers of the organ, the Romantic structures and harmony that were embraced by the young musicians Franck taught, and the spiritual delights of the heart.

The finale, Allegretto poco mosso, follows three lovely prior movements from which themes will return.  The finale’s opening theme is serene and romantically glowing – completely fitting for the Sonata’s dedicatee, violin virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe, who was presented the Sonata as a wedding present in 1886.  Franck begins the movement with [. . .]  The work follows along in a loose rondo structure with the canon always returning and grounding flights of fancy and turmoil.  Throughout, the harmonies are rich, imbued with Franck’s experience with the sonorities of the organ – [. . .]  but which serve to prepare a perfect tension for the final bars: the canon [. . .]