Tag Archives: cello

Dubin-Bruskin Franchomme concert performance on APR’s Performance Today: live broadcast and replay for 30 days @FredChildPT @perf_today

This month, hear my performance with Julia Bruskin of Franchomme’s Nocturne Op. 14, No. 1 on Fred Child’s Performance Today!  We were on air on MPR and its many affiliated stations on August 15, 2017, and for the next 30 days, you can listen to the broadcast here, and see the full playlist.

Performance Today is the fabulous MPR/APR nationally syndicated radio show hosted by Fred Child.  This performance was from our album release celebration concert at John Street Church in lower Manhattan, picture above. Find our world premiere recording of this same nocturne (and many other pieces) on our album The Franchomme Project.

Thanks for the recording, Robert Olmsted, and thank you Julia Bruskin Wunsch, Katherine Cherbas, Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir, and Helene Jeanney for making this concert great!

Franchomme Birthday Week Video #4 Salle Gaveau, Paris

Chopin Prelude Op. 28, No. 9 arranged by Auguste Franchomme for 4 cellists, Transcribed from unpublished manuscript by Louise Dubin.  Performers: Louise Dubin, Raphael Pidoux, Gauthier Boutin, Philippe Muller, cellists
Salle Gaveau, December 2nd, 2016 “La Nuit du Violoncelle,” gala concert of VioloncellenSeine, biannual convention of the French Cello Society. World premiere studio recording on The Franchomme Project album: http://www.louise-dubin.com/shop



When I performed in Paris in September, I was thrilled that about a dozen direct descendants of Auguste Franchomme were in attendance.  One of them presented me with this 1864 medal that had belonged to Franchomme—a real treasure!  This was Franchomme’s medal commemorating his service as a founding member of the The Société des Concerts du Conservatoire under François Habeneck. Both Franchomme and Habeneck were in the group from its inception in 1828.


At first I assumed it was a retirement gift, but Franchomme actually retired from the job 5 years later, on October 12, 1869, when his 2nd consecutive request for a year’s leave was turned down.  So there was probably a ceremony in 1864 at which all founding members were awarded these medals engraved individually with their names. (Unfortunately Habeneck was not among them, since he had died in 1849).

I have already written about Habeneck and the Concert Society of the Conservatoire elsewhere-




Suffice it to say, this was an important orchestra in Paris, and an important job for Franchomme. In addition to performing the solo part of the William Tell Overture countless times with this group as its principal cellist,* he also played all the Beethoven Symphonies (including the Paris premiere of Beethoven’s 9th), as well as premieres of works by Mendelssohn and Berlioz, and concertos by and with Chopin, Alkan, and Kalkbrenner. The Society’s concert series also is where Franchomme has his solo debut. He performed one of his own compositions, probably a Caprice without the optional cello accompaniment, in the concert on March 29, 1829. Here is what critic François-Joseph Fétis wrote in La Revue Musicale a few days after the concert (also discussed in the notes to my album The Franchomme Project):

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.

*(starting in 1846- before that time, he was 2nd cellist sitting next to his teacher, Martin Louis Pierre Norblin)

********************************************************************************Lorsque j’ai joué à Paris en Septembre, j’etais ravie de voir que environ une douzaine de descendants directs d’Auguste Franchomme étaient présents. Un d’eux m’a présenté cette médaille datant de 1864, qui avait appartenue à Franchomme—un vrai trésor!

Voici l’information que j’ai apprise à propos de la médaille: ce fut la médaille de Franchomme commémorant son service comme membre fondateur de La Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. Il était avec l’orchestre depuis son commencement par François Habeneck en 1828.

La médaille est datée 1864; 5 ans avant la retraite de Franchomme, le 12 Octobre 1869, quand sa 2ème demande de prolongation d’activité a été rejetée. Donc, une ceremonie a probablement eu lieu en 1864, au cours de laquelle tous les membres fondateurs ont reçus ces médailles gravées individuellement avec leurs noms. (Habeneck ne figurait pas parmi eux, puisqu’il était malheureusement décédé en 1849).

J’ai déjà écrit à propos de Habeneck et la Société dans les postes mentionné ci-dessus. Bref, ce fut un orchestre important à Paris, et un boulot important pour Franchomme. En plus de jouer la partie solo de l’Ouverture de Guillaume Tell d’innombrables fois avec ce groupe comme violoncelliste solo*, il a joué toutes les symphonies de Beethoven (y compris la Première a Paris de la 9ème de Beethoven), aussi bien que les Premières des œuvres de Mendelssohn et Berlioz, et les concertos par et avec Chopin, Alkan et Kalkbrenner. Dans l’un des premiers concerts de la Société, Franchomme a été présenté à Paris comme soliste lui-même, jouant l’une de ses propres compositions, probablement un Caprice, dans le concert le 29 Mars, 1829.  Voici ce qu’a écrit le critique François-Joseph Fétis dans La Revue Musicale quelques jours après le concert (aussi dans mes notes de l’album The Franchomme Project):
“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.”

*(à partir de 1846- avant ce temps, il était 2ème violoncelle, à côté de son prof, Martin Louis Pierre Norblin.)

Look Ma, no endpin! Franchomme versus Servais

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.

Oct. 9: Franchomme Project CD Worldwide Release, + NY Concert Added!

Today, The Franchomme Project album (Delos Label) became available worldwide, through Naxos distributors.  You can also buy @ http://www.louise-dubin.com, where your purchase goes directly to the artists, and includes a bonus cello duo not on the CD.  (We ship everywhere, and also have a limited-edition T-shirt available!).  Franchomme Hi Rez artwork

In early 2016, Dover Publications will release a volume of Franchomme’s cello-piano compositions  with my introduction.  Included in the score are several pieces also on the album–including his Nocturnes Op. 15, Caprice sur Preciosa, and Chopin arrangements– and other facsimiles of his first publications (which include Franchomme’s fascinating fingerings!)

Our two September concerts were both Time Out NY Critic’s Picks, and now we’ve added a date! Please see http://www.louise-dubin.com/schedule for info about our 10/18 gig at Mezzrow in the West Village (we’re an opener for Bucky Pizzarelli!)

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

Last month, I completed 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, who unlike Alard wanted to perform Beethoven’s late 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 last two Beethoven cello sonatas were never performed by Franchomme, as far as I’ve seen, although my search has not been exhaustive. 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 said “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. He at first 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, 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.

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 survivors. http://www.allthingsstrings.com/layout/set/print/News/News/Where-is-the-Duport-Strad

*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.