Eduard Franck Piano Concertos Receive Their Due

Eduard Franck was a pianist and composer, active in the late 1800s. He studied with Felix Mendelssohn. Franck then went on to have a successful career as a concert pianist and pedagogue. Robert Schumann thought highly of his music. So why isn’t it better known?

Franck was something of a perfectionist and continually tinkered with his works. Most weren’t published until the 1890s, near the end of his life. And at that time, they would have been considered old-fashioned. Listening to this recording in the 21st Century, they didn’t seem that way to me.

Franck’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 13 was published in 1850. This was the year that Schumann’s Third Symphony and Wagner’s Lohengrin premiered. It’s a large, three-movement concerto full of drama and emotion.

Franck is a master craftsman, though. The music is tightly organized. Franck uses clear-cut motifs (rather than technical fireworks) to drive the work.

Franck’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C major was composed in 1879, but never published. A lot changed in 29 years. This concerto, though shorter, packs a powerful punch. Dramatic contrasts are heightened. There’s a restless energy in this work that’s missing from the first concerto.

Georg Michael Garu plays with precision and finesse. I found his performance of the first concerto a little restrained. But he made up for it in the second. In both, his phrasing sounded impeccable.

These are interesting works and provide some refreshing alternatives to the warhorses. Love to hear them in concert one day.

Eduard Franck: Piano Concertos 1 & 2
Georg Michael Garu, piano
Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen; Fawzi Haimor, conductor


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