Grande Pièce Symphonique: Franck’s Symphony for Solo Organ

On Monday we listened to César Franck’s Symphony in D Minor, a piece in which the orchestra turns into a living, breathing pipe organ. Now, let’s finish the week with Franck’s Grande Pièce Symphonique, which can be described as a symphony for solo organ. When this piece was completed in 1863, Franck had just been appointed organist at Paris’ Sainte-Clothilde basilica, where he played a brand new instrument by the master French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.

Grande Pièce Symphonique is set in three movements which flow together. A mighty, celebratory fugue takes shape in the triumphant final movement. The influence of J.S. Bach blends with Franck’s trademark adventurous nineteenth century chromaticism. At the end of the canonic final movement of the Franck Violin Sonata, there’s a thrilling moment where both violin and piano soar with a sense of upward-reaching, heroic exultation. Something similar happens in the final moments of this piece.

In this live 2012 recording, Bert van Stam is performing on the organ of the Cathedral of Saint Bavo in Haarlem, Netherlands:


  • Franck: Grande Pièce Symphonique, jean ladouceur iTunes
  • Bert van Stam’s website

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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