As I have stated elsewhere in these pages, the Franck Prelude Chorale and Fugue is one of the masterpieces for solo piano. It is a work in three movements in which thematic material is used in every movement, culminating in a magnificent fugue combining the three principal themes at once. This is complex and profound music requiring multiple listenings in order to grasp its structure and scope. The Prelude Chorale and Fugue does have lovely moments, but as is the case with much of Franck's music, it is the way in which the music is woven and structured that results in its splendor.
I have found a large number of complete performances to share with you. Most are, in their own ways, fine representations of Franck's creation, though I would like to single out the versions by Egon Petri, Alfred Cortot, Jorg Demus, Julius Katchen, and Sergio Fiorentino, and the eloquent poetry of that by Cherkassky, as being among my favorites. They play the Franck Prelude Chorale and Fugue as though they were having an introspective dialogue with it, and it is revealing to them its secrets.
While I do not believe it is quite up to the standard of the others, I include the performance by Kuhlmann because it is interesting to see a pianist's hands have a go at this piece. In the finale we see his hands as well, an interesting comparison. Also included is a fine performance by an amateur pianist, Julien Kurtz.
In the course of pursuing my favorite activity, i have come across several performances of the Prelude Chorale and Fugue by women pianists that belong in my group of favorites: Jacqueline Eymar is one, Dinorah Varsi another.
Take the time, perhaps over multiple sittings, to listen to them all. Come back to this page often and listen to it again and again. The music will make itself known to you over time if you are not already familiar with it, and it will have been well worth the effort. The gradually acquired ability to follow the thematic material as it progresses, individually and in concert, through a really fine performance of the Franck Prelude Chorale and Fugue will bring you great joy.
This page includes performances of the Prelude Chorale and Fugue by pianists born berfore 1925. This link will take you to another page with performances by pianists born after 1925.
Franco-Swiss pianist (1877-1962)
04:29 ➢ Chorale
09:07 ➢ Fugue
recorded in 1929
Dutch-German pianist (1881-1962)
recorded in 1957
French pianist (1884-1942)
recorded in 1928
Polish-American pianist (1887-1982)
Polish-American pianist (1892-1993)
recorded in 1986
Dutch pianist (1902-1987)
recorded in 1954
Russian-American pianist (1909-1995
recorded live in 1986
Danish pianist (1913-1987)
recorded in 1947
Prelude and Chorale
Cuban pianist (1914-1990)
Soviet pianist (1915-1997)
The following is another by Richter recorded in Budapest in 1983. (I do not know the date of the above recording.) To my ear the first of the two is representative of Richter's magic. The Budapest recording is somehow lacking despite their similarity. I have spent quite some time just listening to these two recordings by one of the all time great pianists, picking passages at random to compare. It is a fascinating exercise and illustrates many things, not the least of which might be the effect of an off day on the performance of a genius.
Hungarian-French pianist (1921-1994)
04:45 ➢ Chorale
10:33 ➢ Fugue
French pianist (1922-2008)
05:28 ➢ Chorale
11:34 ➢ Fugue
recorded in the 1950s
French pianist (1924-1999)
recorded in 1955
04:37 ➢ Chorale
09:54 ➢ Fugue
French pianist (1924-1999)
recorded in 1969
Chorale and Fugue
American pianist (1924-2008)
Prélude and Chorale
For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries, here is my first with a strong musical polemic as background
which is also available as an audiobook.
And this is the more recently published second mystery in the series:
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