Cesar Franck's one and only symphony was composed towards the end of his life and completed on 22 August 1888. Although one of his most popular works today and a favourite in the concert hall, the Symphony was widely criticised when first performed on 17 February 1889.
An example of a so-called 'cyclic' symphony, the work's movments are unified through the use of common thematic material. The finale, in particular, refers back to the two preceding movements, not merely in quotation but as an essential part of its structure.
The orchestration is unmistakably Franckean and highly suggestive of the organ-loft; using big blocks of sound, Franck creates a sense of grandeur and power, especially in the finale. Listen out also for the Cor anglais' melancholic solo in the Andante: it has a surprising turn of phrase that takes the movement into a sunnier major section.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner
One of the most exciting and versatile conductors of our time and a key figure in the early music revival, Sir John Eliot Gardiner has consistently gone against the prevailing orthodoxy through his particular combination of scholarship and inspired musicianship.
Founder and Artistic Director of the Monteverdi Choir, the English Baroque Soloists and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Sir John Eliot Gardiner's performances in concert and on record are unmistakable, both for their zest and technical mastery and the highly personal readings of music from Monteverdi to Verdi and beyond.
In the autumn of 2003, he conducted a rapturously-received new production of Berlioz’ Les Troyens, with the Orchestre Révolutionaire et Romantique, at the Théatre du Châtelet in Paris, for which he was named 'personalité musicale de l'année' by the French Journalists' Union. The production of Les Troyens was also awarded the Grand Prix by the same organisation.
To celebrate the Choir’s 40th anniversary, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir embarked on a musical pilgrimage, this time following the oldest and most famous of pilgrimage routes, el Camino de Santiago, performing the very best a cappella music by Spanish and other European composers of the 16th & 17th centuries.
Alongside the activities with his own ensembles, Sir John Eliot Gardiner appears regularly as guest conductor all over the world. He has made over 250 recordings, many of which have won international awards. Future plans with his ensembles include performances of JS Bach’s St Matthew Passion in the spring of 2005, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Mendelssohn in the autumn and a selection of JS Bach cantatas in December.