César Franck's Quintet for Piano and Strings in F Minor is the first major quintet in the French repertoire. The piece was composed in 1879 and was dedicated to Camille Saint-Saëns, who played the piano part during its premiere at the Société nationale de musique on the 17th January 1880, alongside the Marsick Quartet. While the score was originally dedicated to his "dear friend Camille Saint-Saëns," it seems that the pianist did not like the Quintet's incessant modulation. He even walked off stage, leaving the score on the piano in disdain. However, other experts of his time did not hold the same opinion, starting with Claude Debussy, a great admirer of the piece, and Édouard Lalo, who defined the Quintet as an "explosion" of colours!
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In 1874, César Franck listened to the Prelude to the first act of Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and the chromatic music of the German master touched him so deeply that he later wrote his Quintet for piano, two violins, viola, and cello in F Minor in 1879. As his students have testified, Franck's advice was always to modulate! In the case of the Piano Quintet in F Minor, this continual harmonic variation appealed (and continues to appeal) to the general public, even if the dedicatee and first pianist of the piece, Camille Saint-Saëns, did not agree. He even stormed out of the work’s premiere, leaving the score open on the piano as a mark of disdain. Franck’s wife equally paid little attention to this Quintet for piano, two violins, viola, and cella, as the idea of this piece was born from the composer’s love for one of his students! The Piano Quintet’s alternation between ppp and fff is said to represent César Franck’s contrasting and overwhelming emotions. Enjoy some of the best interpretations of this controversial piece: César Franck’s Piano Quintet in F Minor awaits you on medici.tv!