Cesar Franck was a Belgian composer. He was a proficient organist, pianist and a teacher and settled down in Paris for his musical career. He was a child prodigy, giving public recitals at the age of twelve. He was also hired by pipe organ manufacturers to promote their pipe organs.
Franck composed his solo D Minor Symphony in 1887. It is a beautiful symphony with cyclical motifs. The audience did not like it at first when it was performed in Paris and they were fools.
The critics were shocked by the form and the structure of the symphony. The harmonic writing at the beginning is bold indeed. Three themes, contrasting in nature, are stated in the beginning in D Minor to be repeated in F Minor. For the musicians and the critics, it was odd. They were also shocked by the second movement being Allegretto instead of the conventional Adagio. There was much talk about the use of an English horn as a solo instrument in the movement. The English horn was considered unworthy of use by a symphonic writer by many of Franck's contemporaries. They forgot that Berlioz had already shocked them at the earlier part of the nineteenth century in the slow movement of his Sinfonie Fantastique. I feel that symphony broke the shackles not only of the Classical age but went a step ahead even in the Romantic era. It was bold enough even for the idiotic critics of the Romantic period. The thematic links In Franck's D Minor Symphony between the individual movements owe a lot to Beethoven's Choral symphony and to Liszt's symphonic poems. Age has proved that Franck's symphony has risen above the mental confines of the thoughts of the idiotic critics of the symphony.
The symphony, however, gained popularity elsewhere in Europe and the United States of America later. It is a superbly crafted symphony. It takes a diversion from the typical models of the later Romantic period. It was written in three movements. Each of the movements makes a reference to the opening four-bar theme.
The definitive reading of this symphony is by Zubin Mehta and the Berlin Philharmonic followed by this attached interpretation of Leonard Bernstein and the Orchestre Nationale de France; there is another great reading available by the Royal Concertgebouw of Amsterdam under Karel Ancerl.