The Franchomme Project

September 11 brought the release of the marvelous cellist Louise Dubin’s Delos album The Franchomme Project, which reintroduces the world to a wide array of music, most out of print for many decades, composed or arranged by August Franchomme (1808-1884), the greatest and best known French cellist of his day. 

Many of my fellow cellists will be inspired to explore some of this fascinating repertoire for themselves. Franchomme’s 12 Caprices, Op. 7 have sat in my library for years, but I haven’t played or taught many of them. Having heard the album, now I will–and I look forward to playing, and hearing some of my students play, his Chopin transcriptions (which the composer found delightful), “Mélodies Italiennes,” Nocturnes for 2 Cellos, Caprices for Cello and Piano, and other works, most of which have not been available in print. (A Dover performance edition of sheet music of the works on the album is being released later this year.)

Ms. Dubin’s playing (and that of her collaborators, the cellists Julia Bruskin, Saeunn Thorsteinsdóttir, and Katherine Cherbas, as well as the pianists Hélene Jeanny and Andrea Lam) is both warm and meticulous; the impeccable intonation, beautiful sound, and elegant phrasing will surely delight other listeners as much as they did me. These marvelous performances are inventive and creative, yet never overstated. They are what one of Dubin’s teachers, Janos Starker, would surely have described as tasteful (very high praise for him, indeed). I’m certain they would have also pleased Prof. Franchomme, the beloved pedagogue at the Conservatoire du Musique, who, as the extensive notes in the CD booklet explain, was as renowned for his lack of histrionics as he was for his extraordinay technique. (The notes, which provide a fadcinating biography of Franchomme as well as a thorough background of each piece, make this an album worth buying a physical copy rather than listening via a streaming service.)

Lousie Dubin is, among many things, an excellent role model for young muscians. She is developing a performing career in part with this project which is expanding the repertoire of our beloved instrument. Many of us are commissioning and creating new music; with this endeavor she is bringing delightful gems of the mid-nineteenth century to light. The works she’s brought to light are the fruits of significant labors of research, detective work, and serendipitous meetings with Franchomme’s descendents. Who knows what other delicious tidbits remain to be discovered by another enterprising musician/scholar/researcher? 

Let’s follow her example. 

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