A Tale of Two Weddings


Duo Concertante has chosen to close their performance at the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium on
Friday, May 6, with one of the gems of the violin sonata repertoire. The second half of the
concert will consist entirely of the Sonata in A major for Violin and Piano by César Franck.
Franck, a Belgian by birth who later gained French citizenship, composed this work as a
wedding gift for the much younger Belgian violinist and composer Eugène Ysaÿe. A friend
presented the sonata to the groom on the morning of the wedding day. Ysaÿe hurriedly rehearsed
the piece and then performed it at his wedding along with a pianist-guest.

Franck had intended the opening movement to be played slowly, but Ysaÿe insisted on playing it
more quickly. Franck was convinced and agreed that Ysaÿe’s tempo should be the correct one
from then onward. It would be interesting to try to imagine a slower tempo when the duo plays it
next Friday.

Listen to the piano part in the joyous final movement to see if you can hear a hint of wedding
bells as it nears the end.

Franck was better known in his day as an organist and a teacher than as a composer. He was blest
with an attribute that was extremely useful for a keyboard player—he had unusually large hands.
He could cover intervals that very few others could manage. Unfortunately for later musicians,
he sometimes forgot about that when he composed and so presented pianists like Timothy
Steeves with some daunting challenges.

Franck’s own wedding 38 years earlier was a more complicated story. He had grown up with an
overbearing father who wanted to manage his talented pianist-son much like Mozart’s father had

As a young man Franck fell in love with one of his piano students and got along well with her
family. His father refused permission for them to marry, as was his right until César reached 25
years of age.

As soon as he was of age, the young man defied his father and announced his intention to marry
Félicité. A revolution was in progress in Paris in that year of 1848, and a barricade blocked the
way to the church. Fortunately, the partisans helped the young couple over the barricade with
good humour. The wedding took place as planned, with his father, finally reconciled to the
inevitable, in attendance.

Franck may not be as prolific or as famous as other composers, but this sonata is regarded by
many as one of the finest ever written. We are incredibly fortunate to have Nancy Dahn and
Timothy Steeves in Abbotsford to present their interpretation of this masterpiece.

Tickets are available online at www.valleyconcertsociety.com at $28 for adults and $15 for
students. Doors will open at 6:45 p.m. for a concert that starts at 7:30 p.m. Call 604-289-3377 for
more information.

I look forward to seeing you at the concert.

John Wiebe
The Valley Concert Society