César Franck: Prélude, Fugue et Variation Op. 18

arranged for guitar quartet by Matanya Ophee

Score and Parts. 12+8+8+4+4 pp.

$19.95, Presser Order number 494-02967 (EICM-48)

I first heard this work in 1961, played on the organ of the Valparaiso Cathedral, Indiana, by the blind organist André Marshal. I was, to put it mildly, thunderstruck. I was seating in the middle of the Cathedral, where the organist himself was not visible to me. The emotional impact of this music was so powerful on that particular occasion, that I had a great difficulty in controlling my tears. A couple of years later, I heard André Marshal playing the same piece in a church in Lausanne, Switzerland. This time I was allowed to sit right next to the organ’s console and watch the organist playing this King of Instruments. The added visual aspect must have tempered my reaction this time, but the Prélude, Fugue et Variation Op. 18 by César Franck remained with me for all times. Several years later, living in New York City, my old friend from Israel Edgard Dana and I, decided to form a duo ensemble. I immediately sat down to arrange a few little known masterpieces for the two guitars medium, and the Franck Op. 18 was foremost on my mind. The Dana-Ophee guitar duo never actually materialized. Edgard was obliged to return to Israel and our plans never came to fruition.
When I established Editions Orphée, in New Hampshire in 1978, it was only natural that this two-guitar arrangement of the Prélude, Fugue et Variation Op. 18 by César Franck would be one of the first things I undertook to publish. Since its actual publication in 1981, this arrangement achieved a solid place in the standard repertoire for the two-guitar medium. It has been recorded many times, and performed so often, by many duos all over the world. To this day, 34 years later, it is still one of the best sellers in Editions Orphée’s catalogue. I was even flattered by seeing my arrangement arrogated by some people, who changed a few notes here and there, with different fingering, and recorded and performed this arrangement as their own...
Last time I had the pleasure of hearing this work performed, was in the concert presented by Judicaël Perroy and Jérémy Jouve at the 2011 GFA Festival in Columbus, GA where I have been presented by the GFA with their Hall of Fame Award. After that concert, Scott Tennant of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet suggested to me that this would be a good candidate for the guitar quartet medium. Frankly, I had not thought of that idea until then, my main efforts in rearranging this work over the years were concentrated on the flute and guitar ensemble. But I had to reject this idea. While the prelude and variation worked very well for flute and guitar, the fugue presented for me insurmountable difficulties in finding the proper balance between the two instruments. A guitar quartet is something else altogether. It took me a while to do it, and here it is.

Publishing history:

César Franck’s Prélude, Fugue et Variation was first published in Paris circa 1869 by M.me Mayens-Couvreur, as N° 3 in a collection of 6 organ pieces. The original title page states that the work was also arranged by the composer for piano and organ-harmonium. That arrangement was republished in 1881 by A. Durand & Fils (pl. no. D&S C.ie 2686) which was the source I used back in the mid 1970s to make my two guitar arrangement and the present arrangement for guitar quartet. The Durand edition also lists arrangements of the work for Violin Harmonium and Piano, and for piano 4-hands. The main difference between the original organ and the Organ Harmonium and piano arrangement, are the arpeggiated friorituras in the Lento section included in the arrangement but not in the original. In this edition these runs are marked as ad libitum, meaning it is up to the performers to play them or not, and if played, at what tempo.

Matanya Ophee
Columbus, 2014.


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September 9, 2014