At the time César Franck was born in Liège, Belgium, on 10 December 1822, Beethoven had not yet composed his 9th symphony, or his last string quartets. When Franck died at the age of 67 in 1890, Claude Debussy had already made his mark with works including the Cinq poèmes de Charles Baudelaire; it is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that a composer whose life spanned such extremities, had trouble finding his own voice.
Franck was Belgian by birth, but on two occasions during his life he applied for, and was granted, French citizenship.The first occasion was in 1835 because the Paris conservatoire would only accept French students, and the second was in 1872 when he was appointed professor of organ at the same institution (the position was onlya vailable to French citizens). Driven by his highly ambitious father, Franck’s earliest years were spent pursuing a career as a virtuoso pianist, partly in Belgium and partly in France. His career never really took off, however, and he resigned to earning a living as a music teacher, while at the same time attempting to establish himself as a composer.