Hyperion Records

Troisième Choral, M40
dedicated to Eric Chadwick

'Franck: Piano Music' (CDA66918)
Franck: Piano Music
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'The Stephen Hough Piano Collection' (HOUGH1)
The Stephen Hough Piano Collection
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Track 7 on CDA66918 [11'23]
Track 18 on HOUGH1 [11'23] Super-budget price sampler

Troisième Choral, M40
‘Before I die, I am going to write some organ chorales, just as Bach did, but on quite a different plan’, declared Franck in 1889, and by the end of September the following year the Trois Chorals were completed, only a month or so before his death. Unlike Bach’s Chorale Preludes or Brahms’s similar swan-songs, these are more like three fantasies, although their construction is as skilful in its subtle use of cyclic form as anything Franck wrote. The third is the most ‘pianistic’, and there are (at least) three other piano transcriptions of it: by Blanche Selva, Paul Crossley, and Vladimir Viardo. Representing on the piano the textures and sounds of a large organ creates a veritable étude in pedalling (all three of them) and tone control, particularly in the attempt to suggest an imperceptible acoustical ambience, similar to a slight ‘cathedral’ overhang.

Franck’s original registration is quite specific in colour, particularly his love of reeds with their piercing timbre. It is interesting that at the moments of greatest melodic and harmonic sweetness in all three Chorales Franck asks for the most sour stops to be drawn. In the third Chorale, in the glorious central section, the left hand and pedals are gently painting a wash of harmonic colour with flutes and bourdon, whilst the ‘endless melody’ on the Swell manual has to be etched with the acid of the combined oboe and trumpet stops. However, this is one of the peculiarities of Franck’s style—the non troppo dolce that appears quite often in the piano works—with its poignant, emotional tug between the austere and the sentimental: the ice-cold marble altar, but the burning candles and the sweet incense.

from notes by Stephen Hough © 1997

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