Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Musical Arts




Catherine Nolan


César Franck’s Prélude, Choral et Fugue is a fine example of the composer’s mature style and contribution to musical form and language at the end of the nineteenth century. The use of a Baroque structure, such as the fugue, has a significant impact on the overall unfolding of this Romantic work. A teleological perspective will inform the analysis of the Fugue, which will constitute the core of the study. It will use concepts of design and purpose in order to explain the development of the piece as a whole, and the transformation of the musical language within the Fugue in particular.

Romantic fugues reflect a general tendency of works from this era to unfold teleologically, which itself resulted from a transformation of the philosophical discourse and from a new interest in notions such as organicism and symbolism. Typical features of Romantic fugues, such as shifts in texture from polyphony and homophony, romanticization of the harmonic language, and accelerations of tempo, contribute to this Fugue’s forward impetus and departure from the Baroque model.

Specific elements of Franck’s musical language also contribute to the teleological aspect of the piece. His strong affinity for German musical works, which derived in part from his studies with Reicha and early training in thoroughbass, and the rich French music culture that surrounded him, both influenced his unique and cosmopolitan style. A defining feature of Franck’s mature language, germinal thematic development, consists of the growth and transformation of initial minimal material which constantly anticipates upcoming major themes. In the Prélude, Choral et Fugue, an initial descending-second cell eventually grows into a three-note motive, which itself serves as the basis for thematic ideas and most importantly the subject. The Fugue therefore informs the goal-driven aspect of the piece in two ways, by the consistent anticipation of its material in the Prelude and Chorale, and through its departure from the Baroque model as it reaches fulfillment within the Romantic idiom. By providing a greater understanding of Franck’s style and of the intricate process through which the work unfolds, this study will be beneficial to performers and teachers alike.