Franck, Jules (1858-1941)

Biography written by Hervé Roten

Jules Franck is born in the French town Nancy in 1858. A few years later, his family settles in Paris (1). In January 1873, Jules Franck sings with his brothers Gustave and Isaac in the choir of Notre Dame de Nazareth’s synagogue, led by Samuel David. In 1874, he copies several synagogal manuscripts for the purpose of preparing the sheet music collection of the Temple of rue de la Victoire. In June 1889, he gets married with the pianist Clémence Braun, who is the sister of Hélène Zadoc-Kahn, daughter-in-law of the chief rabbi of France.

On his marriage certificate, he is mentioned to be “harpist in the Opera of Paris”. In 1890, with a recommendation by Samuel David, who is then director of the music of the consistorial synagogues, Jules Franck becomes director of the temple’s choir on rue Notre Dame de Nazareth.

When Samuel David dies on October 3rd 1895, Jules Franck is appointed director of the music in the consistorial temples and choirmaster of the temple of la Victoire. He is only 37 years old and is responsible of the working staffs of la Victoire (the service leaders Adolphe Beer and Salomon Heymann, the organist Alphonse de Villers, 8 choir singers and 28 choir boys), of Notre Dame de Nazareth (the service leaders Nethaniel Durlacher and Alphonse Théodore, the choirmaster Stern, the organist Pilard, 6 choir singers and 12 to 18 choir boys) and the staff of les Tournelles (the service leader Adolphe Gradwohl, his substitute Isidore Bernstein, the choirmaster Camille Erlanger, the organist Bachelet, 4 choir singers and 12 to 18 choir boys).

In the years following his nomination, Jules Franck’s dedication to his work is fully recognized by the consistory of Paris who gives him more and more important responsibilities. In 1908, Jules Franck asks if he can associate women in his musical staff, in replacement of children who are harder to find and recruit. This decision is accepted by the Consistory on November 11th 1919.

The introduction of mixed choirs will encourage several choirmasters to do new arrangements for prayers, sometimes in a questionable style. This is why, with the help of the Consistory, Jules Franck publishes between 1920 and 1933 a service leader guide, recitatives and chants for the services with noted choirs and composed after traditional melodies, with the aim of fighting “a bloom of defective or shocking interpretations, especially concerning the services with choir”. (2)

Jules Franck retires in 1937, after 42 years of dedicated work. He dies in Paris in 1941. One of his children is the composer and pedagogue Maurice Franck (1897-1983), award winner of the National Superior Musical Conservatory of Paris, laureate of the first Second Grand Prize of Rome (1926) and harmony teacher in the Conservatory of Paris from 1937 on.

(1) Probably after the war of 1870 and the attachment of the Alsace-Lorraine region to Germany.
(2) Jules Franck, Forward to the Guide of the Service Leader, recitative and chants of the services with noted choir composed after traditional melodies, Paris: the Consistory, [nd]

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