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César Franck

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César-Auguste-Jean-Guillaume-Hubert Franck (December 10, 1822 – November 8, 1890), a composer, organist and music teacher of Belgian origin, was one of the great figures in classical music in France (and the world) in the second half of the 19th century.

César Franck was born in Liège, Belgium. His father had ambitions for him to become a concert pianist, and he studied at the conservatoire in Liège before going to the Paris Conservatoire in 1837. Upon leaving in 1842 he briefly returned to Belgium, but went back to Paris in 1844 and remained there for the rest of his life. His decision to give up a career as a virtuoso led to strained relations with his father during this time.

During his first years in Paris, Franck made his living by teaching, both privately and institutionally. He also held various posts as organist: from 1847-1851 he was organist at Notre Dame de Lorette, and from 1851-1858 he was organist at St. Jean-St. Francois. During this time he became familiar with the work of the famous French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, and he also worked on developing his technique as an organist and improviser.

In 1858, he became organist at the recently-consecrated basilica of Sainte-Clotilde, where he remained until his death. Here he began to attract attention for his skill as an improviser. His first set of organ compositions, however, was not published until 1868, when he was 46 years old, though it contains one of his finest organ pieces, the “Final in Bb”. From 1872 to his death he was professor of Organ at the Paris Conservatoire. His pupils included Vincent d’Indy, Ernest Chausson, Louis Vierne, and Henri Duparc.

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