Symphony in Dm

The Symphony in Dm is the most famous orchestral work by César Franck. Completed in 1888 and premiered the following year, Franck dedicated it to his pupil Henri Duparc. It is noteworthy that he chose to write a symphony, given the rarity of the form in 19th-century France, which considered the symphony a mainstay of German music. It is very likely that the genesis of this work followed upon the succes of his own influential Symphonic Variations, as well as other works such as Alkan's Piano Symphony and Saint-Saëns' Organ Symphony. The work presents a cyclic structure, eschewing both the novelties of orchestration and the nationalist thematic inspiration that Saint-Saëns and d'Indy had used to differentiate their own symphonic works. The piece was poorly received: the Societé Nationale de Musique had seen a breach between conservative composers and those younger who wanted to include German music and acknowledge the influence of Wagner. This was seen by many as a betrayal to French traditions and, in that light, Franck had a very difficult time premiering his work. Orchestras refused to cooperate, the critics were merci, he was attacked by important composers and conductors and his work was deemed 'grace', 'hardly above the level of conservatoire students', 'arid', 'clumsy', etc. In the long run the Symphony proved to be succesfull in the United States and across Europe, receiving regular performances to this day.

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