Belgian composer Cesar Franck wrote only one symphony in his life, but it’s a mainstay of the symphonic repertoire for reasons that become obvious upon hearing: it’s a powerful work, lyrical and brooding and, in the end, optimistic. Franck’d reputation is mainly established by works he wrote toward the end of his life, and the Symphony in D minor is one of those. There was not much of a French symphonic tradition to speak of in the 19th century, which partly explains why the work was apparently poorly received at first, but like many great works, its reputation grew over the years where now it is considered, rightfully, a masterpiece.
Of particular interest is Franck’s use of cyclic form, in which melodic material from earlier movements is used in later ones. I’ve always loved cyclic works, which partly explains my own fierce devotion to Tchaikovsky’s Fifth and Rachmaninov’s Second Symphonies.
Here is Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D minor.