Reclusive and eccentric, the French pianist–composer Charles-Valentin Alkan was also undoubtedly one of the greatest pianists who ever lived, and a composer who, like his friend and fellow-virtuoso Liszt, pushed the boundaries of what his instrument, and human pianism, could achieve. Again like Liszt, he composed music that was not merely flashy and difficult to play – it tapped a deep comprehension of music history and theory, a flair for the lyrical and the dramatic and of course a vast imagination.
Tackling these formidable pieces are eight pianists and one organist, along with the Trio Alkan piano trio and the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto under Roberto Foreìs-Veses, on recordings dating from 1989–2017. Alkan’s great cycles for the piano — the Études in all the minor keys (Vincenzo Maltempo), in all the major keys (Mark Viner), the Préludes in every key (Laurent Martin) – feature along side other large-scale works like the Grandes Études for hands separate and together (Alessandro Deljavan) and the Nocturnes (Alan Weiss, Costantino Mastroprimiano), as well as characterful miniatures like the Chants and Les Mois (Stanley Hoogland). Organist
Kevin Bowyer demonstrates that Alkan was as much an organ prodigy as anything else, with performances of
the Prières and Little Plainchant Préludes, as well as music for Alkan’s beloved pedal-piano transcribed for the organ.
A welcome and much-needed tribute to the most neglected Genius of the 19th century: Charles-Valentin Alkan.
Charles-Valentin Alkan was one of the most important pianists and piano-composers of the 19th century, although he lived the largest part of his life in obscurity and seclusion. He was a close friend of Chopin (they were neighbours in Paris) and he was the only pianist in whose presence the great Franz Liszt was nervous to play.
Alkan’s works reveal a strikingly original genius, they range from the smallest miniatures to the most colossal creations, from the bizarre to the grandiose, from the intimate to the heroic.
This Edition includes the major piano works: both cycles Studies in all the minor and major keys (Op. 39 and 35), the Grande Sonata, the Concerti da Camera, organ works and chamber music.
Played (among others) by today’s best Alkan interpreters: Giovanni Bellucci, Mark Viner and above all Vincenzo Maltempo, who received several glowing 5-star reviews for his performances: “exhilarating, a revelation!“ (Guardian, selected among the 10 best CD’s of 2012), “his playing flashes with summer lightning” (Gramophone), “Maltempo puts his phenomenal technique at the service of his poetic vision”(Piano News), “with this passionate performance Maltempo confirms his place in the restricted circle of Alkan’s best performers” (5 star, Diapason) and many more.