Louise Farrenc (1804-1875) was a French Romantic composer, virtuoso pianist and teacher. She is remembered in the clarinet community for her trio, op. 44 for clarinet, cello, and piano, her piano-wind sextet, op. 40, and her triumphant nonet, op. 38.
Louise Farrenc (1804 – 1875)
Louise Farrenc (née Jeanne-Louise Dumont; 31 May 1804 – 15 September 1875) was a French composer, virtuoso pianist and teacher.
Louise Farrenc composed three chamber works for clarinet and piano, as well as three symphonies that include the clarinet:
- Clarinet-cello-piano trio, op. 44,
- Piano-wind sextet,op. 40
- Nonet, op. 38.
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Born in Paris, Jeanne-Louise Dumont was the daughter of Jacques-Edme Dumont, a successful sculptor, and sister to Auguste Dumont, also a sculptor. Louise began piano studies at an early age with Cecile Soria, a former student of Muzio Clementi. When it became clear she had the ability to become a professional pianist she began taking lessons with Ignaz Moscheles and Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Given the talent she showed as a composer, her parents decided to enroll her in composition lessons with Anton Reicha when she was just fifteen years old. It is unclear if the young Louise Dumont followed his classes at the Paris Conservatory where Reicha was on faculty, since at that time the composition class was open only to men. In 1821 she married Aristide Farrenc, a flute student ten years her senior. Following her marriage, she interrupted her studies to give concerts throughout France with her husband. He, however, soon grew tired of the concert life and, with her help, opened a publishing house in Paris, which, as Éditions Farrenc, became one of France’s leading music publishers for nearly 40 years.
In Paris, Farrenc returned to her studies with Reicha, after which she reembarked on a concert career, briefly interrupted in 1826 when she gave birth to a daughter, Victorine, who also became a concert pianist but who died in 1859 aged thirty-three. In the 1830s Farrenc gained considerable fame as a performer and her reputation was such that in 1842 she was appointed to the permanent position of Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatory, a position she held for thirty years and one which was among the most prestigious in Europe. Accounts of the time record that she was an excellent instructor, with many of her students graduating with Premier Prix and becoming professional musicians. Despite this, Farrenc was paid less than her male counterparts for nearly a decade. Only after the triumphant premiere of her nonet, at which the famous violinist Joseph Joachim took part, did she demand and receive equal pay. Besides her teaching and performing career, she also produced and edited an influential book, Le Trésor des Pianistes, about early music performance style, and was twice awarded the Prix Chartier of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, in 1861 and 1869.
At first, during the 1820s and 1830s, she composed exclusively for the piano. Several of these pieces drew high praise from critics, including Robert Schumann. In the 1830s, she tried her hand at larger compositions for both chamber ensemble and orchestra. It was during the 1840s that much of her chamber music was written. While the great bulk of Farrenc’s compositions were for the piano alone, her chamber music is generally regarded as her best work.
Throughout her life, chamber music remained of great interest. She wrote works for various combinations of winds and or strings and piano. These include two piano quintets Opp. 30 & 31, a sextet for piano and winds Op. 40, which later appeared in an arrangement for piano quintet, two piano trios Opp.33 & 34, the nonet for winds and strings Op. 38, a trio for clarinet (or violin), cello and piano Op. 44, a trio for flute (or violin), cello and piano Op. 45, and several instrumental sonatas.
In addition to chamber music and works for solo piano, she wrote two overtures and three symphonies. She heard her third symphony Op. 36 performed at the Société des concerts du Conservatoire in 1849. Her total compositional output includes at least 49 compositions with opus numbers.
Read her full biography, from which the above is excerpted, on Wikipedia.org.
Sextet in C Minor, Op. 40 | 1852
Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 44 | 1840
Clarinet, cello, piano
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- James R. Briscoe (editor). New Historical Anthology of Music by Women. Indiana University Press, 2004. Vol. 1, p.170. ISBN 9780253216830
- James R. Briscoe (editor). New Historical Anthology of Music by Women. Indiana University Press, 2004. Vol. 1, p.171
- Bea Friedland. Louise Farrenc, 1804-1875: Composer, Performer, Scholar. The Musical Quarterly. Vol. 60, No. 2 (Apr., 1974), pp. 257-274. Oxford University Press
- François-Joseph Fétis–Arthur Pougin. Biographie universelle des musiciens et bibliographie générale de la musique. Supplément et complément .Vol 1, pp. 314-315. Libraire de Firmin-Didot et Cie, Paris 1878
- Pendle, Karin (editor) Women & Music: A History. Indiana University Press, 1991
- “Louise Farrenc”. Discogs. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
- “Louise Farrenc music, videos, stats, and photos – Last.fm”. Last.fm. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
- “Composer, Performer, Scholar- Composer of the Week70th Anniversary Special: Louise Farrenc (1804-1875)”. http://www.bbc.co.uk. 16 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2020.
- François-Joseph Fétis. Biographie universelle des musiciens et bibliographie générale de la musique. Deuxième édition.Vol 3, pp. 186-188. Libraire de Firmin-Didot et Cie, Paris 1862
- “Kaptainis: French composer gets a première — and makes a comeback”. Arthur Kaptainis, Montreal Gazette, April 21, 2016
This article was published on 02/20/2021 and last updated on 04/04/2021.