A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Fränzl, Ferdinand
FRÄNZL, Ferdinand, eminent violinist and composer, born in 1770 at Schwetzingen in the Palatinate. He was a pupil of his father, Ignaz Fränzl, and performed, when only seven years of age, a concerto at a court-concert in Mannheim, where he entered the band of the Elector in 1782. From 1785 he began to travel with his father. During a prolonged stay at Strassburg he studied composition under Richter and Pleyel, and later under Padre Mattei at Bologna. He appears to have been less successful at Paris than at Rome, Naples, and Palermo. Returned to Mannheim in 1792, he took C. Cannabich's place as leader of the band, but in 1802 again started for a tour to Russia. At this period Fränzl was generally acknowledged to be one of the best of living violin-players, and his compositions enjoyed great popularity. Spohr heard him in 1802 at St. Petersburg, and gives an interesting account of him:—'Fränzl was at that time the foremost of violin-players in St. Petersburg. He still follows the old method of holding the violin on the right side of the tail-piece, and is therefore obliged to play with his head bent down. [Violin.] He also lifts the right arm very high, and has a bad habit of raising his eyebrows whenever he plays something expressive. His execution is neat and clear. In the slow movements he performs a great many runs, shakes, and cadenzas, with rare precision and distinctness; but as soon as he plays forte his tone is rough and unpleasant, owing to his drawing the bow too slowly and too close to the bridge, and pressing it too much on the string. Quick passages he executes with good intonation and very clearly, but invariably in the middle of the bow, and consequently without light and shade.' On a later occasion Spohr comments less favourably on him, and describes both his style and his compositions as old-fashioned; but this only shows that Fränzl had not kept pace with the progress made in violin-playing towards the end of the last and beginning of the present century, and could not stand comparison with the great masters of the Paris school, still less with Spohr himself.In 1806 Fränzl returned to Munich, and was appointed conductor of the opera. He did not however give up travelling, and played at various times in Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, and Leipzig. In 1823 he made a second journey to Italy. He then retired to Geneva, but finally settled at Mannheim, and died there in 1833. Fränzl was a fertile composer. He published 8 concertos and 4 concertinos for the violin, 1 concertante and 3 duos for 2 violins, 9 quartets for strings, 3 trios for 2 violins and bass, several overtures, a symphony, and a number of songs. He also wrote operas, which were performed with much success at Munich and elsewhere. All these works are written in an easy and correct style, but, being without higher artistic value, are now entirely forgotten.
[ P. D. ]