Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio

Birth and Breakaway

According to popular wisdom (and pub quizzes), famous Belgians may be a bit thin on the ground, but as Donald Macleod makes clear in this week's Composer of the Week, César Franck (1822-1890) surely deserves to be in that number. Born in Liège the son of a domineering father, he showed great musical promise at an early age. A pianist of prodigious gifts, and very large hands, he was soon being displayed to the world by his proud father. But when the family moved to Paris, his first attempt to enrol at the city's Conservatoire was a failure - he was deemed too young, and too Belgian! He was driven to compose at a very young age and, although his juvenilia has not stood the test of time, he made a good impression with his Opus 1, a piano trio, impressing such luminaries as Franz Liszt. Forced by his father into a punishing regime of touring, teaching and performance, by his mid-twenties César longed to break away from the paternal grasp. When it came, the rupture was occasioned by the small matter of a song - l'Ange et l'Enfant - and the woman to whom it was dedicated.

Release date:

1 hour

Last on

Mon 24 Feb 2014 12:00

Composer Help Page


Find resources and contacts for composers from within the classical music industry.

Take a tour of Ravel's house

At Ravel's house at Montfort l'Amaury

Sara Mohr-Pietsch reveals Ravel's character in his exquisitely-decorated house near Paris

The absurdly talented Herr Mendelssohn


Donald Macleod reveals Mendelssohn's gift for sketching and watercolours.

Composers A to Z


Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.