Schubert sonatas

Newest Releases

Piano solo and duet
  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider

Free classical music concerts by Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.


Moravec - Twelfth Night Recital
15%off £17.21 (until Dec 7)

Katerina Englichová - harp
15%0ff £10.83 (until Dec 7)

  • Today's leading<br>clarinet-piano duo
  • Stellar debut<br>piano recital
  • Clarinet transcriptions Jonathan Cohler
  • Jonathan Cohler & Claremont Trio
  • French clarinet masterpieces
  • Today's leading<br>clarinet-piano duo

Sibelius Symphonies Maazel
4CDs + Blu-ray audio
Special Price £36.75

RVW A Sea Symphony - Elder

Shostakovich Symphony 10 Nelsons

Verdi Requiem

Dvorak Opera Premiere

Grieg, Mendelssohn sonatas




Would you like a hyperlinked weekly summary of the CDs we have reviewed?

Click for further details

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
Classical Editor
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Stan Metzger
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on

Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Cameo Classics
Prima voce
Red Priest
Toccata Classics

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
Classical Editor
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Stan Metzger
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

CD: AmazonUK

Richard FRANCK (1858-1938)
Symphonische Fantasie op. 31 (1899) [12:54]
Serenade for violin and orchestra in A minor op. 25 (1896) [6:57]
Suite for orchestra op. 20 (1898) [20:08]
Liebesidyll - Amor und Psyche op. 40 (1905) [12:26]
Serenade for violoncello and orchestra in D minor op. 24 (1896) [6:10]
Wellen des Meeres und der Liebe – Concertoverture in E minor op. 21 (1895) [10:27]
Fabian Wettstein (violin); Tim Strüble (cello)
Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen/Christopher Fifield
rec. 25-27 March 2008, Studio WPR, Reutlingen, Germany. DDD
STERLING CDS1078-2 [69:09]


Experience Classicsonline

The conductor Christopher Fifield, who is also a noted writer about music - and a contributor to MusicWeb International - has already been responsible for bringing a number of neglected works into the catalogue, including his fine recording of the Symphony No 1 by Frederick Cliffe (see review). Now he gives us a welcome selection of orchestral music by Richard Franck, a composer whose name and music were hitherto unknown to me.

As Franck’s name may be unfamiliar to others, perhaps a little biographical detail will be helpful. For this I draw on the very useful booklet note by Paul Feuchte. Franck was born in Cologne. His father, Eduard Franck (1817-1893) was a well-known composer, pianist and teacher. His mother, Tony Thiedemann, was a pianist. They met through friendship with the Mendelssohns; Eduard was a friend of Felix Mendelssohn and Tony was a member of the circle of Felix’s sister, Fanny. Richard Franck studied philosophy at Leipzig University but at the same time pursued musical studies at the city’s conservatoire, the director of which at that time was Carl Reinecke (1824-1910), a lasting influence on young Franck. Later Franck spent the best part of twenty years on the staff of the German music school in Basel, until 1900. He then moved back to Germany, to Kassel, where he carved out quite a career for himself as a performer and conductor. Unfortunately his health began to deteriorate and in 1910 he retreated to Heidelberg, where he followed a less hectic schedule of performing and teaching, living there until his death in 1938.

His mature composition career spans the period from around 1880 until his death, though after 1910 his creative activity was sporadic. It seems that his style was pretty conservative, influenced by Reinecke and by his friend, the Swiss composer Hans Huber (1852-1921) and that’s certainly the impression conveyed by the contents of this CD. On this evidence Franck was firmly in the tradition of Mendelssohn and Schumann – and none the worse for that – though it’s clear that he was not immune from the influence of Wagner also. The music on this disc is uniformly pleasing, though it breaks no new ground and doesn’t storm the emotional heights, and the craftsmanship sounds to be tasteful and of a high order.

It’s also suggested in the notes that Franck had difficulty escaping the shadow of his father. Several of Eduard Franck’s pieces have been recorded and Rob Barnett’s review of this present disc includes links to reviews on Music Web International of some of those CDs and to a disc of chamber music by Richard himself.  So far as I know, that disc has been the sole representation of his output in the catalogue until now.

There is one work on this disc that, with sufficient exposure, might establish some degree of modern reputation for Franck. The Serenade for Violin and Orchestra may not be technically the finest work in the collection – I’ll leave that to others to debate – but it’s a real charmer despite its modest dimensions. The music is predominantly broad, lyrical and easeful. The soloist has an enviable line, which is spun beautifully by Fabian Wettstein, who is also the konzertmeister of the orchestra. He’s aided by sensitive support from his colleagues. Christopher Fifield rightly mentions Max Bruch as a comparator. This wholly engaging piece could have been the slow movement to a concerto though it is, in fact. an independent composition.

Its companion, the Serenade for Cello and Orchestra is, I suspect, pretty contemporaneous to judge by the opus number – one regrettable omission from the documentation is any information as to the dates of composition of the various works. This is also a very appealing piece but it’s somewhat darker hued, perhaps fittingly, given the choice of solo instrument. The soloist here is the orchestra’s principal cellist and he’s another fine and sympathetic player.

The Suite for Orchestra is cast in four movements. The first and third movements are light and easy going while the second, as Mr Fifield observes, has some kinship with Brahms in Hungarian Dance mood. The finale, which is lively and enjoyable, is the most substantial of the movements.

Liebesidyll - Amor und Psyche is a bigger piece in conception. It opens with a soulful unaccompanied cello solo – and there’s a second such passage a little later on. This work is very definitely in the mould of late nineteenth century German romantic music and in it Franck deploys the richest orchestral palette so far encountered on the disc. Though unashamedly romantic it’s not a hothouse piece: note, for example, the engaging section in compound time between 5:46 and 6:41, which has a fine lilt to it. This may not be a masterpiece but it’s a very pleasing piece to hear.

The last piece on the programme, Wellen des Meeres und der Liebe (‘Waves of the Sea and of Love’) was premièred in Lucerne in 1895 under the direction of Mengelberg, no less. It’s an enjoyable work if not, in the last analysis, especially memorable. I don’t know if there’s a programme of any kind behind the music.

That last comment highlights the one shortcoming in an otherwise excellently produced release. There are booklet essays in German and in English by the same author, but not identical I content. The English essay contains a good deal of biographical information – very necessary – but insufficient information about and commentary on the music itself. That’s a regrettable omission since the music will be new to most listeners, I imagine. My knowledge of German is only rudimentary but so far as I can tell the same comment applies to the German note.

However, that’s the only criticism I have of this issue. The sound is very good and so far as I can judge – this is unfamiliar music and I have seen no scores – the orchestra plays very well and with enthusiasm: certainly the sound they produce is very pleasing. Christopher Fifield conducts with refinement and evident enthusiasm for the music.

No masterpieces have been unearthed here. On the evidence of this CD Richard Franck was a conservative and fairly minor composer but he was not a negligible composer and his music is enjoyable, skilful and attractive. Enthusiasts for music of this style and period will certainly want to hear it and so should other collectors with an enquiring ear.

John Quinn

see also Review by Rob Barnett



Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.