8. “End of the First Phase” – New Tune Tuesday 8

end of the first phase cover

Week 8!  Almost two months of new tunes.   We’ve blown past EP and are well on the way to album at this point.  Today’s song:

I originally recorded this song on my birthday last year.  I don’t remember it.  I had to look up the date added info in the file properties.  So I’m not really sure what the first phase was, or why it was ending!  But it’s a moody title, which is always good!

First of all, this piece is not my most polished piece.  I rerecorded a few sections, and remastered the entire track with a new piano set this week, but I left some of the rough edges on because I didn’t want to lose the emotion and rawness present in the original.  It reminded me of a story I’d heard about Cesar Franck’s “Piano Quintet in F Minor.”

If you have some time you should really listen to the whole thing.  It’s a bit over sentimental and gawdy at times, but overall it’s one of my favorite chamber pieces.  You’ll love it. Especially after you read the story behind it.

You see, it was really something of a scandal when it was first performed in 1879.  For the time, the piece had an uncomfortable amount of biographical emotion in it.  Violinist Tim Summers explains the situation here:

The story of the premiere of the piano quintet is extremely bizarre. From the outside it looked like this: 1) Saint-Saëns [another famous contemporary of Franck’s] sight-reads at the piano…visibly enjoying himself less and less as the concert goes on; 2) Franck goes on stage to congratulate the performers and dedicate the work to Saint-Saëns; 3) Saint-Saëns storms off stage, angry at having been involved with the piece at all.

It turns out that Saint-Saëns and Franck were both obsessed with one of Franck’s students, Augusta Holmes.  Summers says, “[The quintet has] an atmosphere of baroque ecstasy and unconstrained sensuality that made even friends of Franck uncomfortable at the premiere.”  And Franck’s wife, who had suspected Franck’s infatuation with Holmes, knew it to be true after attending this first performance.

Can you blame the grown men for going a little music crazy over this Irish minx?

Augusta Holmes; Can you blame the grown men for going a little music crazy over this Irish minx?

Franck’s audience was quite literally nauseated by the blatant display of emotion in the piece.  It was like airing one’s dirty laundry, and people were much more private then.  It’s amazing to think of music being so revealing at the time, and so powerful!  Even though Saint-Saëns left the stage in revulsion, he too has a piece, “Danse Macabre,” which at its premiere in 1875 caused women to pull out their hair, the audience to riot, and the riot to erupt out into the streets, merely from his use of atonal and dissonant harmonies.


These skeletons be crazy! They must have gotten into the bath salts again.

Now we blast any kind of music from our cars, headphones, and bluetooth speakers, and not a whole lot happens.  What’s the next phase of music?  Or the next art form that will force us to riot and out into the streets?  I guess we’ll see!

See you next week!




Sam Wessels

I am a writer, composer, actor, and gamer, with six musicals written, one piano album published, and one boyfriend to come home to. Come back each tuesday for a new and original piano performance.

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