A native of Liège, Belgium, César Franck (1822–1890) settled in Paris and became Professor of Organ at the Conservatoire and organist of the basilica of Ste-Clotilde, where he played (and was greatly inspired by) an organ by Cavaillé-Coll. His Trois pièces pour grand orgue
, which conclude with Pièce héroïque
, were written for the opening of the Trocadéro, Paris, a Moorish palace built for the World Exhibition of 1878 on the site now occupied by the Palais de Chaillot. The dark-hued, finely wrought main theme of Pièce héroïque
, heard beneath a restless chordal accompaniment, is followed by a confident, on-the-beat pendant. Introduced by timpani-like notes, the tranquil middle section has a delicately scored chorale-like theme in B major. The timpani become increasingly insistent, and the re-introduction of the main theme and a swaggering reprise of its pendant lead to a major-key coda in which the ‘chorale’ is heard on the scorching tones of the full organ.
from notes by Relf Clark © 2010