Alkan - Paraphrases, Marches & Symphonie | Piano Classics PCL10207

Alkan - Paraphrases, Marches & Symphonie

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Label: Piano Classics

Cat No: PCL10207

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Instrumental

Release Date: 19th February 2021

Contents

About

The latest volume in a revelatory Alkan series from an English pianist with a string of critically acclaimed albums of rare repertoire from the Golden Age of the piano virtuoso to his credit.

Perhaps the most enigmatic figure in the history of music as a whole, let alone the 19th century, Charles-Valentin Alkan remains one of the most intriguing and alluring names among the pantheon of pianist-composers. According to Franz Liszt, Alkan possessed the finest technique he had ever seen yet preferred the life of a recluse.

The outstanding masterpiece of the album is the Symphonie for solo piano which Alkan drew from his set of 12 Studies, op.39. It opens with an Allegro which is one of the composer’s most darkly impassioned conceptions, in which declamatory rhetoric, passionate outbursts and towering climaxes are all bound by a tightly organised structure. The piano writing is distinctly orchestral in nature, hence the ‘symphonic’ designation, demanding that the intrepid soloist make his or her way through towering conglomerations of sometimes ten note chords, thick, chordal tremoli and volleys of double octaves: only fully accredited virtuosi need apply!

The Symphonie is placed on this album as the climax to a sequence of grand marches conceived on a similarly grand scale. They include the Three Cavalry Marches, op.39, which find Alkan at his most concise, in the Berliozian no.1, his most eccentric (the trio of no.2) and whimsical (no.3). Like them, the Marche funèbre, op.26, bears witness to Alkan’s ability to channel a latent and, at times, menacing power through material of the slightest substance. The following Marche triomphale, op.27, is a massive, swaggering affair, in contrast to the ruminative melancholy of the opening Paraphrase, op.45, on a poem by Legouvé set in a cemetery and cast in Alkan’s most elegiac vein. A profound sadness also inflects the opening section of the composer’s ingenious instrumental setting of Psalm 137, ‘By the waters of Babylon’.

Critical praise for Mark Viner’s Alkan recordings on Piano Classics:

‘The finest account ever committed to disc.’
 – Gramophone (Etudes, op.35 - PCL10127)

‘Another quite exceptional disc…beautifully recorded.’ 
– Gramophone (Preludes, op.31 - PCL10189)

‘[Viner] can claim a place at the top table as one of the pre-eminent Alkan players de nos jours… a disc of piano playing out of the top drawer.’ – Gramophone (Grande Sonata, op.33 - PCL10209)

Reviews

Mark Viner’s mould-breaking survey of Alkan’s complete piano music reaches its fourth volume (17 are projected) with this astonishing account of the technically forbidding, tautly structured Symphonie for solo piano... Viner makes light of all challenges, his sound never forced, his shaping always cogent...  Stephen Pettitt
The Sunday Times 28 February 2021
The Symphony is music of immense technical complexity – ferocious double octaves, massive chordal explosions, vertiginous scales – with occasional moments of quiet lyricism, and Viner negotiates it all with wonderful aplomb and just the right amount of swagger.  Andrew Clements
The Guardian 12 March 2021

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