César Franck – A Holy Week Playlist

When Caesar Augustus (‘Caesar the Great’) reigned over the first Roman Empire a remarkable story – some have called it the greatest ever told – was begun with the birth of a boy in the City of David, who would save his people from sin and head a worldwide church.

Centuries later, in 1822, a Belgian boy was born and named for the great Emperor – and he was destined to become one of the most defining voices in the music of that church. In addition to becoming titular organist at Paris’ beautiful Basilique St Sulpice César-Auguste Franck became professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire, a position that likely limited his own compositional output.

Almost none of Franck’s organ music is explicitly sacred: but in this Holy Week dedicated to the culmination of Jesus’ ministry I have chosen and free-associated several works with the story of Jesus’ life and ministry. To be clear there is no indication whatever that Franck made associations like mine between his abstract compositions and this or any other story – he might very well have thought the notion to be complete rubbish.

But I defend my use of this great man’s great music to uniquely illuminate a tale we know – perhaps too well. Join me in following the young rabbi from Nazareth on his journey to Golgotha.


Noël suite (extrait de l’Organiste)

Pastorale, op.19

March into the Holy City
Quasi marcia

Last Supper
Panis angelicus, op.12

The Story of the Passion
Prélude, fugue et variation, op.18

The Story of Salvation
Chorale #3, a minor

“César Franck, A Holy Week Playlist” is available twice in Holy Week in-person, first as part of the ORGANIX series at All Saints’ Anglican Church in west Toronto on Wednesday April 13 at 12:30pm. Admission is by donation (suggested $20).

In the annual Easter live-streamed recital from Beach United Church in east Toronto, on Saturday April 16 at 4:30pm, a small in-person audience will be welcomed, and the concert will be live-streamed. Both ways of attending are available by donation (suggested $10) on Eventbrite.

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