Sep 22, 2022
In the mid 19th century, the way to make yourself famous in France as a composer was to write operas. From Cherubini, to Meyerbeer, to Bizet, to Berlioz, to Gounod, to Massenet, to Offenbach, to Saint Saens, to foreign composers who wrote specifically for the Paris Opera like Rossini, Verdi and others, if you wanted to be somebody, especially as a French composer, you wrote operas, and you wrote a lot of them. But one composer in France bucked the trend, and her name was Louise Farrenc. Farrenc never wrote an opera - instead she focused on chamber music, works for solo piano, and three symphonies that were in a firmly Germanic style. Writing in a style that was not en vogue in her home country, along with the obvious gender imbalances of the time, meant that you might expect that Farrenc was completely ignored during her life. But that’s not the case. She had a highly successful career as a pianist, a pedagogue, and yes, as a composer too. But after her death, her music was largely forgotten. Bu in the last 15-20 years there has been a concerted effort at bringing Farrenc’s music back to life, part of a larger movement to rediscover the work of composers who were unfairly maligned or treated during their lifetimes and after. One of Farrenc’s greatest works, and the one we’re going to be talking about today, is her 3rd symphony in G Minor. On the surface this is a piece in the mid-to-late German Romantic symphonic tradition, with lots of echoes of Mendelssohn and Schumann, but there’s a lot more to it than that. So today on this Patreon sponsored episode, we’ll discuss how Farrenc’s music fit into French musical life, how a symphony was a still expected to sound in 1847, and of course, this dramatic and powerful symphony that is only now beginning to find its rightful place on stage. Join us!