César Franck (1822-1890), although a native of Liège in Belgium, came to be regarded as a French composer, since he lived and worked in Paris for the greater part of his life. For many years he was the organist of Sainte Clotilde, where, badly paid and perpetually in fear of dismissal by his employer, he came into his own and played with exquisite sensibility.
The Prière, the fifth of a set of six organ pieces published by Franck in 1862, is, perhaps, the most elusive of them all. It opens with a long, sustained phrase of five-part writing in C-sharp minor. The pedals introduce a new motif, imitated by the manuals, which is expanded and proves fruitful in development. A new, singing phrase, heard against a triplet accompaniment, is shared between the outer voices, and the section closes on a diminished seventh chord. The initial, prayer-like theme now returns as a declamation, and a passage in octaves introduces its enriched recapitulation. From this point the music soars ecstatically to a climax in the major mode, but then subsides into sober recitative, and the prayer ends in submission.