César Franck was born at Liège in 1822. He was originally intended by his father for a career as a virtuoso pianist. In Paris his nationality excluded him at first from the Conservatoire, where he eventually failed to achieve the necessary distinction as a performer, turning his attention rather to composition.
In 1846 he left home and went to earn his living as a teacher and organist, winning particular fame in the second capacity at the newly built church of Ste. Clotilde, with its Cavaillè-Coll organ.
He drew to him a loyal and devoted circle of pupils and in 1871 won some official recognition as the nominated successor of Benoist as organ professor at the Conservatoire. He died in 1890.