R.J. Stove’s intensively researched biography of Belgian French composer César Franck (1822-1890) has striking merits. Stove writes exquisitely, in periodic sentences, and manages to make detailed discussions of musicology an aesthetic experience for experts and neophytes alike. He also blends his musical discussions with well-told anecdotes, the most appealing of which is his recounting of Franck’s passion for a young beauty with an Irish father, Augusta Mary Anne Holmès.
(The American Conservative)
Stove notes a resuscitation of interest in Franck starting in 1990, the 100th anniversary of the composer's death, with a flurry on concert performances and new recordings of long neglected works. Never before has his music been so readily available in commercial recordings. (American Record Guide)
This book is not quite for the ordinary reader, but having said that, it would be a huge compliment to give someone a copy of it. It would be a way of saying, “You have sufficient general education and interest in music to make this of more than passing interest to your good self. (Quadrant)
Stove has done an admirable job in evoking Franck and his world, as well as giving us a fairly balanced appreciated of his life’s work…. Interesting connections made between people and compositions, as well as the author’s own insights, attest to the depth of Stove’s research. (Limelight Magazine)
This book will not be the last word on Franck, but Stove presents us with a readable portrait which will certainly appeal to those for whom Franck is still a bit of a mystery. (Salisbury Review)
What makes Stove’s biography especially interesting is not just the author’s own musical expertise, which enables him to go way beyond a standard biographer in analysing Franck’s work, but the way he weaves in the historical background… Cesar Franck: His Life and Times reminds us that artistic geniuses don’t have to be tortured souls with problematic personalities. (Spectator Australia)
Stove has chosen to eschew scholarly detachment in treating his subject’s life, and the reward in engagement and sheer wit is considerable, while the extensive annotations reveal just how carefully and thoroughly the author has done his research. (Organ Australia)
It is the first study of the composer in English for some time, and even an audience already familiar with the subject will welcome its extensive quotation from contemporary sources. (Choir & Organ)
Stove has delivered scrupulous scholarship, correcting errors of earlier writers and providing a full scholarly scaffolding of bibliography and endnotes.
“This is an admirably thorough and detailed exploration not only of Franck himself, but also of his historical environment and varied connections, done with obvious sympathy and admiration but without failing to present all sides in the critical spectrum”
“We get a wide range of opinion about the man and his music and a feeling that the author knows intimately the music he describes care and detail. And we have confidence that he has gone the extra mile to correct little discrepancies and inaccuracies that have been perpetuated in Franck scholarship to date”
“It is fascinating reading, and the author has no hesitation in pursuing amusing side stories or interesting political historical settings. Don’t miss the notes which are often very funny”
“The book is full of engaging and charming turns of phrase and wry observations.”
This is a very rich book, full of surprises and interest and written in a very appealing and lively way. It should reignite interest in works other than the few standard ones and round out our ideas of Franck’s legacy. I strongly recommend it.”
Overall I found this a diverting read and appreciated a writer whose turn of phrase and command of English prose never fail to delight, itself an all-too-rare event these days.