Category Archives: Scholarly

Look Ma, no endpin! Franchomme versus Servais

©2015 Do not copy, publish or reproduce without the written permission of Louise Dubin

In the engraving of the Alard-Franchomme Quartet at the head of this blog, we can see that Franchomme is playing his Duport Strad (more info about it in my earlier post) using a basically modern bow grip (just a bit higher on the stick) and NO endpin. He held the cello off the floor with his calves, which given the difficulty of his compositions is a remarkable thing.  According his late descendant, M. Laurent Pénicaud, Franchomme refused to use an endpin because he thought it made the cello sound unnatural.  He also refused to let his students at the Conservatoire use them, even as they were becoming widely adapted elsewhere due to the influence of the Belgian cellist Servais.  I’ve included a never-published photo (from the collection of his descendants) of an elder Franchomme sitting with his endpin-less cello in the forthcoming Dover Selected Works for Cello and Piano by Auguste Franchomme.

Servais was a large man with a large tone who played a large 1701 Strad with its own fascinating history. And apparently, Servais was a man who liked to eat.  Some have theorized that for Servais, the endpin may have become a real necessity for him to navigate the cello around his rotund belly! And, it may have enabled Servais to come across as more outgoing performer. Contemporary music critic Henri Blanchard, in his desire to differentiate Franchomme from Servais, called Franchomme elegantly precise but cold, and Servais passionate but out of tune:

Franchomme can be called the king of the French school of cello playing….he plays the cello in a manner that is elegant, easy, clean, but without inspiration or passion. His style is pure, but cold…[in contrast] Servais, head of the Belgian school… has a generous manner; he sings with expression on his instrument, but his intonation is not very accurate, a pretty common fault of cellists. Franchomme peut passer a juste titre pour le chef, pour le roi de l’ecole francais…[il] joue de violoncelle d’une maniere elegante, facile, nette, mais sans inspiration, sans passion. Son style est pur, mais froid…. Servais, chef de l’ecole belge avec Batta… il ya a de l’ampleur dans sa maniere; il chante avec expression sur son instrument, mais son intonation n’est pas tres sure, defaut assez ordinaire aux violoncellistes.”

Revue et Gazette Musicale, 1842

Probably out of respect for Franchomme’s opinion, endpins were not used at the Paris Conservatoire until 1884. It is probably no coincidence that 1884 happens to be the year when Franchomme died, and his student Jules Delsart took over the cello class there. (Delsart is most remembered today for his cello transcription of Franck’s violin sonata in A major). Even after the endpin became officially accepted at the Conservatoire, other illustrious cellists in the late 1800s refused to play with one, including Piatti and Grutzmacher.

Franchomme’s famous Stradivarius cello, how he acquired it, and what compositions were (and weren’t) played on it

I’ve just submitted my Introduction to the forthcoming Dover publication of selected works for cello and piano by Auguste Franchomme. There were some great stories that I just couldn’t fit within their word limit. Here are some, to give you an idea of what else you can read when the score comes out.  I’ll post another one very soon.

One of the 2 images heading this blog is the only known depiction of Franchomme performing-  a plate from an 1877 book written by one of his former cello students, Antoine Vidal,*  showing an older Franchomme performing with the Alard Quartet. Violinist Jean-Delphin Alard (1815-1888) was, like Franchomme, the son of an amateur musician father, and like Franchomme, taught at the Conservatoire. In 1847, Alard had begun a new chamber music society, the Société Alard and Franchomme—partly to phase out his previous group’s cellist, Pierre-Alexandre Chevillard.  Unlike Alard, Chevillard wanted to perform Beethoven’s late string quartets, and proceeded to do so in his next group. Alard’s new group with Franchomme performed sonatas, trios, quartets, and quintets of Mozart, Haydn, and (early-middle period) Beethoven.  The late Beethoven string quartets were avoided, as were his final two cello sonatas. The society lasted, with many guest artists around the core of Alard and Franchomme, until 1870, by which time it had developed into the most prestigious chamber music series in Paris (there were at least four others in 1864).  The other musicians in the engraving sitting to Franchomme’s left are violist Desire Trombetta and violinist Jules Garcin.

Alard happened to be the son-in-law of Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, the renowned Parisian luthier and instrument dealer who helped Franchomme acquire the 1711 Duport Stradivarius cello, which he is playing in the engraving. (Vuillaume also made a small cello for René Franchomme, Auguste’s son, who was already a fine cellist and budding composer when he died at age 18). The Duport Strad had been owned and played by both of the Duport brothers, and Anner Bylsma calls it the “greatest cello ever made.” Early on, it came close to serious damage in the Tuileries Palace, where Jean-Louis Duport was performing as solo cellist of the court of the Emperor. Napoleon seized the cello from Duport, put it between his legs (dangerously close to his sharp riding spurs!) and said, “How the devil do you play this thing, Duport?” Fortunately, Duport cried out “Sir!” in such a dire tone that Napoleon stopped his jesting immediately and returned the cello to Duport.

The Duport Strad was handed down to Jean-Louis Duport’s son, who played the instrument as the principal cellist of Lyon for a few years before establishing himself in Paris as a piano builder. At first, he had no interest in selling the cello. Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume had told Franchomme, “vous êtes le successeur de Duport; vous seul devriez posséder son instrument.” In 1842, after some cajoling by Vuillaume, the cello was finally put on the market for an unprecedented price: either 22,000 francs (according to Franchomme’s descendants) or 25,000 francs (according to other sources). Franchomme struggled to come up with this amount, but somehow bought it the following year, possibly with the help of his wife’s dowry, which, according to this linked footnote, was large.

Franchomme’s daughter Cécile sold it to Hill and Sons in London in 1892 for 40,000 francs. Rostropovich played on this incredible cello for many years, and in fact he used it to record both Chopin’s Op. 65 Sonata and his Introduction and Polonaise Brillante. Franchomme performed both pieces with Chopin, using the same cello. Despite rumors that it was sold in 2008 for 20 million dollars to Japan’s Nippon Foundation, it is apparently still in the hands of Rostropovich’s descendants.

*Plate LXXXVIII, “Musique de chambre en 1878,” Volume 3 of Antoine Vidal’s Les Instruments A Archet: Les feseurs, Les Joueurs D’Instrument, avec planche gravées a l’eau-forte par Frederic Hillemacher. Paris: Imprimerie de J. Claye, 1877-78. Reproduced with permission of Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard University.

© Louise Dubin  Do not copy, publish or reproduce without written permission 

Found on Ebay for 6 bucks! A piece dedicated to Franchomme by a friend of his and Chopin’s

©2015 Do not copy, publish or reproduce without the written permission of Louise Dubin

My most recent research trip to France was in fall 2011, and the materials I brought back from this trip and my earlier one are going to keep me busy for years.  Which is good, because there isn’t much on the internet, as readers of this blog already know. But occasionally, this IS something amazing on the web– case in point, a friend alerted me to a beat up “Franchomme Rondo” for sale on Ebay for $6, in its original French edition.  Not having heard of a Rondo by Franchomme, I bought it of course! This is now the oldest piece of sheet music I own- it turned out to be an 1833 publication by Jules Forest, a lawyer and amateur cellist, violinist and conductor who met Franchomme after one of Franchomme’s concerts.  They became good friends, and Franchomme’s time spent at the Forest Touraine house, le Côteau, probably inspired his daughter to buy a property in the same region.  (See my photos of both houses at Jules’ daughter, Adele, met Chopin in Paris in 1833 and a few weeks later, it was arranged that Chopin take a holiday with Franchomme at le Côteau, where Adele took a few piano lessons with Chopin. More importantly, she was the dedicatee of the compositional collaboration between Franchomme and Chopin, the Grand Duo Concertant on Themes from Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable, which was presented to her and her cello-playing father on this visit. In September 1833, Chopin and Franchomme performed the Grand Duo in Tours (nine miles from Le Côteau), at a concert arranged by Jules Forest, in what may have been its first performance. There is a well-known (published) letter from Chopin to Franchomme written after his reluctant departure from his holiday, reminiscing about le Côteau and the game he and Franchomme had played with the local peasant girls in a barn, among other things.  But back to the Forest Rondo- before any of this happened, earlier in 1833, Jules Forest dedicated this technically challenging work to Franchomme.  The Pleyel publication features Franchomme’s name prominently (see image below), but leaves out this poem dedication that Forest wrote on the manuscript:

Franchomme, c’est à toi que ce Rondo s’adresse,

Il est bien en dessous de tout ce que tu fais,

Mais sous tes doigts, appuis de sa faiblesse,

Il peut encore avoir quelque succès.

Par ton dévoué et sincère ami,

J. Forest

27 juin 1833
So sad this poem wasn’t published – too self-derogatory maybe?  Franchomme would honor Jules Forest in return in 1841, by dedicating to Forest his own very challenging work, the Adagio and Bolero.

Jules Forest Rondo


Franchomme, Shirley Temple, and Love’s Young Dream

©2014 Do not copy, publish or reproduce without the written permission of Louise Dubin

Franchomme, Shirley Temple and Love’s Young Dream

Auguste Franchomme was attracted, as many of us are today, to tunes from Scotland and Ireland; he published 3 compositions based on Scottish tunes* and one on an Irish air. Since I’m performing his Irish one this Sunday…

Franchomme’s Air Irlandais, Varié was one of a set of three themes with variations that Franchomme published in 1841 as his Op. 25. It is based on an Irish air that was popularized by the Irish poet Thomas Moore, who added lyrics to it and called it

Love’s Young Dream

Oh! the days are gone, when Beauty bright
My heart’s chain wove;
When my dream of life, from morn till night,
Was love, still love.
New hope may bloom,
And days may come,
Of milder calmer beam,
But there’s nothing half so sweet in life
As love’s young dream:
No, there’s nothing half so sweet in life
As love’s young dream.

Though the bard to purer fame may soar,
When wild youth’s past;
Though he win the wise, who frown’d before,
To smile at last;
He’ll never meet
A joy so sweet,
In all his noon of fame,
As when first he sung to woman’s ear
His soul-felt flame,
And, at every close, she blush’d to hear
The one loved name.

No, — that hallow’d form is ne’er forgot
Which first love traced;
Still it lingering haunts the greenest spot
On memory’s waste.
‘Twas odour fled
As soon as shed;
‘Twas morning’s winged dream;
‘Twas a light, tht ne’er can shine again
On life’s dull stream:
Oh! ’twas light that n’er can shine again
On life’s dull stream.

The history of Moore’s publication is a fascinating tangent—upon the request of the publishers James and William Power, the not-yet-famous Moore wrote lyrics to a series of Irish tunes (inspired by Beethoven’s and Haydn’s already popular settings of British folksongs). The tunes were already good, and they were published as piano-voice arrangements by composer Sir John Andrew Stevenson- other composers would rearrange them in later publications. Between 1808 and 1834, 10 volumes of Moore’s lyrics were published. We can thank Moore for popularizing not only this tune, but also The Last Rose of Summer, among others.

You can see the lyrics with the tune here:

And here’s a rendition by Shirley Temple!


It’s possible that Franchomme laid hands on one of Moore’s volumes, which became his most famous publications (and Moore DID live in Paris from 1819 or 20 until 1822). But it’s more likely that Franchomme learnt the air from his Irish composer–pianist friend John Osborne, with whom he was composing a collaborative composition at the same time he was writing the Air Irlandais–(their collaboration is Franchomme’s Op. 23, Duo Concertant on Anna Bolena, which will be included in the forthcoming Dover publication).

The Air Irlandais Varié is the piece Franchomme chose to perform for Queen Victoria’s historic visit to France in 1843. In an attempt to end two centuries of tension with France, the Queen accepted an invitation from King Louis-Philippe to a half official, half private visit at his summer residence, Chateau d’Eu, just outside of Paris. Monarchs from these countries hadn’t met since 1520, and the visit cemented an early version of the Entente Cordiale between the UK and France. The Queen was feted with a concert on September 5th featuring the Musique du Roi, the fine group of musicians King Louis-Philippe had assembled in 1832. Auguste Franchomme was the group’s solo cellist and a founding member.  Berlioz attended this concert and his written account is how we know that Franchomme performed this piece. It was apparently well-received; Ireland had become part of the UK in 1801, but resistance to British rule had not yet reached a level as to be a thorn in the Queen’s side.

If you’d like to hear what Franchomme did with the tune, please come hear my performance of it this Sunday (Spoiler- it’s virtuosic). I’ll also be playing the Fibich Quintet with fabulous musicians, and there will also be some solo Chopin piano pieces and a movement from Grieg’s violin sonata. (More info in previous blog post)

Sunday, November 9,  3:00PM

Morris Jumel Mansion

65 Jumel Terrace, New York City (one block east of St. Nicholas Avenue btw 160th and 162nd Streets)

Tickets $35 ($30 members, $15 students, seniors) includes light refreshments

*The Scottish ones are his Op. 6 (recorded by Dieltiens, and also featuring a Russian theme), another set of variations from his Op. 25 publication, and his Caprice surs des Airs Ecossais.

AMS post: Franchomme’s debut solo performance

©2014 Do not copy, publish or reproduce without the written permission of Louise Dubin

One of Franchomme’s many gigs was section (and later lead) cellist of the Paris Conservatoire Concert Society Orchestra. This group premiered many of Beethoven’s, Berlioz’s and Mendelssohn’s orchestral works in Paris (remarkably, many of Beethoven’s symphonies had not been performed in Paris yet!) Their artistry was praised by Franchomme’s friends Mendelssohn and Chopin, who both performed piano concertos with the group. I’ve recently discovered what must be the definitive book about this orchesta’s history, The Société des Concerts du Conservatoire: 1828-1967, written by Professor D. Kern Holoman. On his book’s accompanying website, Prof. Holoman lists this program for their concert given on Sunday, March 29, 1829:

1. Ouverture d’Oberon, de Weber.

2. Air tiré de l’Hymne de la nuit, de M. Lamartine, musique de M. Neukomm, chanté par M. Wartel.

3. Solo de cor, par M. Mengal.

4. Symphonie en la de Beethoven (redemandée).

5. Chœur de Weber.

6. Solo de violoncelle, par M. Franchomme.

7. Alleluia, grand chœur du Messie de Haendel.

Although Franchomme had been a founding member of the orchestra, this was his first appearance at one of their concerts as a soloist; in fact, it seems to have been the Parisian solo debut of the young Auguste Franchomme.  He was most likely performing one of his own Caprices which he would publish around 1835 as his Op. 7 (these Caprices were written with an optional 2nd cello part, and our album will include two of them in their duo version). This is what critic François-Joseph Fétis wrote in La Revue Musicale a few days after the concert:

Un jeune homme, un enfant, M. Franchomme, est venu, ignore, jouer sans pretention un solo de violoncelle, de manière à se mettre tout à coup sur la ligne des plus grands artistes. Il a dit un thême, sans aucun ornement, et toute l’assemblée fut transportée de plaisir…Trois, quatre, cinq salves d’applaudissemens ont à peine suffi pour exprimer le plaisir qu’avait éprouvé l’assemblée.

(A young man, a child, M. Franchomme, has come, unknown, and played without pretention a cello solo, in a manner that suddenly places him in the lineage of the greatest artists. He stated a theme, without any ornament, and the audience was transported…the, four, five rounds of applause were barely enough for the audience to express their pleasure).

I’ve also written something for the AMS blog, Musicology Now, which is now up (and includes some videos!):

Welcome to the blog about Auguste Franchomme!

This Blog is about the music and letters of Auguste Franchomme, the great 19th century cellist-composer.  Because of the research publicized on my website’s Franchomme page (, I’ve received many inquiries, and so I thought it would be good to establish a place to share some of my discoveries, and to start a forum to welcome discussions and other people’s discoveries. It’s also a place to share thoughts about researching, interpreting, performing, and recording Franchomme’s music.

Who was Auguste Franchomme?

He was the most renowned Parisian cellist of the 19th Century, who performed and composed with Fryderyk Chopin and was Chopin’s dearest French friend. In addition to being a touring soloist who often performed his own compositions, Franchomme was also (at different periods of his life) the lead cellist of King Louis-Phillippe’s Musique du Roi, section and then principal cellist of the Théâtre-Italien opera orchestra, cellist of the Alard-Franchomme chamber music society, section and then principal cellist of the Paris Conservatory’s Concert Society Orchestra, and a beloved cello teacher at the Paris Conservatory, where he taught until a few days before his death. He composed around 40 original works for cello, and he also published skilled arrangements of works by Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Donizetti, Bellini, and many others. Franchomme’s original compositions bear influences from Chopin, Mozart, and the Italian bel canto composers he played in the pit, and they’re full of Viotti-inspired bowing patterns favored by Duport and other French Conservatoire string player-composers. Franchomme was praised by contemporary critics not only for his virtuosic bow technique but also for brilliant thumb position facility, pure tone, perfect intonation, and sincere performances of his own tasteful compositions. He was very occasionally criticized for not being more of a showman like his Belgian rival Servais. Servais often performed with Liszt, Franchomme often performed with Chopin…enough said!

What is the Franchomme Project?

The Franchomme Project was spawned out of my doctoral research in France, where I found some lovely forgotten works by Auguste Franchomme which have been out of print since his death, as well as some of his unpublished manuscripts, which I’m in the process of transcribing into legible parts. I collected a team of fabulous musicians — Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir, Kathy Cherbas, Julia Bruskin, Hélène Jeanney, and Andrea Lam– and with the help of our multiple Grammy-winning producer Steve Epstein we finished the recording sessions for our album on May 13th, 2014! It features never-recorded works by Auguste Franchomme, and will be released in 2015.

I receive frequent inquiries about how to find Franchomme’s compositions. To make this a bit easier, I’ve just begun work on this upcoming publication by Dover (the release date on Amazon is wrong, but it should be out in 2015 at latest)… I’m selecting and introducing some of my favorite out-of-print cello-piano works by Franchomme. I’ll also self-publish my quartet transcriptions and maybe some cello duos as soon as I have time.  Women In French will soon publish my article about the musical relations between Charlotte Rothschild, Chopin and Franchomme, which I lectured about at ASU and NYU.  In addition to performing (probably premiering) Franchomme’s works in New York, Chicago, Bloomington, Charleston, and other cities, I’ve also given lecture-recitals in New York, Michigan and TX, and an interactive lecture-recital/cello duet/quartet reading at University of Connecticut. Please get in touch if you’re interested to set up a concert, a lecture, or a combination!

Why is so much of Franchomme’s music forgotten today? I’m a fan, so it’s hard for me to understand this, but there are a few reasons I can guess. One is that they’re almost all written for cello, so that puts him into a cello niche—but that’s not really enough of an explanation. Another reason is that most of his pieces were written to showcase his legendary technique at his own concerts, (delegating the piano to an accompanimental role). They are difficult for cellists to play—but at the same time, they tend to be short, tasteful and not in-your-face passionate or flashy, so they might not inspire the kind of standing ovations performers want when they put hours of practice into a piece (think a Chopin Nocturne versus a Liszt composition). A third reason, sort of in line with the second, is that his pieces are generally not attempting to make a definitive pronouncement about the human condition, but rather strive for something subtler and sometimes more introverted. Many pieces are full of spritely, buoyant lightness (exemplified by suave facility required by the above-mentioned string crossing patterns), gentle humor, long singing lines; others are melancholic or reflective (an occasional marking is “Religioso”). His works leave me with the impression of elegance, sincerity and reserved classiness. His idols were Mozart and Chopin. His priorities as a musician seemed to have been in line with his personality (as much as I can glean from letters and contemporary accounts- but more about this in another entry!)

till soon,

Louise Dubin