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Alkan: Concerto for Solo Piano, Op 39 / Troisième recueil de chants Import

4.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, September 11, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Concerto pour piano seul Op 39 n° 8 à 10 - Troisième Recueil de chants op.65 / Marc-André Hamelin, piano

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Allegro Assai
  2. Adagio
  3. Allegretto Alla Barbaresca
  4. Vivante
  5. Esprits Follets: Prestissimo
  6. Canon: Assez Vivement
  7. Tempo Giusto
  8. Horace Et Lydie: Vivacissimo
  9. Barcarolle: Assez Lentement


Product Details

  • Performer: Marc-André Hamelin
  • Composer: Charles-Valentin Alkan
  • Audio CD (September 11, 2007)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Hyperion
  • ASIN: B000TT1QM8
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,157 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Charles-Valentin Alkan probably holds the most uneven status of any composer in music history: Schumann saw him as mediocre and Busoni believed him the greatest piano composer next to Beethoven and Liszt. Today, Alkan is gradually becoming more recognized as a musical genius and important pianist-composer. But his music continues to be ignored by the mainstream and seems only known to connoisseurs. It's a shame, when his compositions show such unquestionable originality and sound like the best elements of Chopin and Liszt. However, with the help of Marc-Andre Hamelin, I think we may be experiencing an Alkan Renaissance. Hamelin has probably contributed more to Alkan's posthumous legacy than even Ronald Smith. Thanks to Hamelin, the Alkan discography has been fattened immeasurably. But beyond that, Hamelin is one of the only few who can bring out the best of Alkan's unique music.

For those unfamiliar with Alkan's Concerto for Solo Piano, Ronald Smith notes that "it has been described as the nineteenth century's answer to Bach's Italian Concerto. In both works a single player is invited to imitate the impression of solo and massed forces. But the Alkan is on a colossal scale; an isolated masterpiece which cannot be sensibly compared with any other work..." Hamelin has arguably catapulted this work into the spotlight, though I must confess that I absolutely loathed his first recording of it (Charles-Valentin Alkan: Concerto For Solo Piano). I was disappointed with Hamelin's lack of legato touch in nearly every measure, the unyielding overly fast tempo, and, to my ears, an absence of emotional involvement.
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Format: Audio CD
He was born Charles Valentin Morhange, but changed it to Alkan which was his father's first name, was destined for great things. Alkan was a child prodigy and entered the Paris Conservatoire at six, and his Op. 1 was written when he was just 14. As a young man the celebrated Alkan was popular in Paris's salon where he played next to the other great pianists of his day Liszt and Chopin, but Alkan withdrew from public performance in 1849. Alkan was certainly one of the great virtuoso pianist composers and his keyboard works are without question among the most difficult ever written, even Liszt admitted this. But performances of Alkan's repertoire has literally been none existent until fairly recently, when some of the most accomplished pianists, Hamelin among them brought the music back into the public eye and slowly people are starting to get more interest in Alkan's music again. This new disc has received many awards and it's not difficult to see or more accurately, hear why. This is amazingly complex music and few pianists could ever hope to tackle it with any success. It's a measure of Hamelin's technical and interpretive skills that he seems to be able to play the 49 minute Concerto with ease. In the first movement of the Concerto Studies 8-10 of the Douze etudes Hamelin seamlessly plays passages of intensity to moments of quiet lyricism in a way that is simply astonishing. The Adagio finds Alkan in one of those moments, resting after the rigorous demands of the Allegro. Hamelin's playing is as introspective as the music will allow, with occasional flashes of bravura writing. He judges the contrasting moods superbly, never allowing the big tunes to dominate or the quieter passages to fade in the background.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
Sorry for my adding a sixth star. But what to, then? Five inflated amazon.com stars simply aren't enough for a transnational treasure like this.

To say the least, it would be somewhat foolish not to believe that no single human being has heard all live and recorded performances of every living and dead pianist. In this case, that doesn't really matter as sensible extrapolation is sufficiently second-best. In front of you is one of the best piano performances of all times and centuries--possibly THE best (only the Almighty himself would know).

The conclusion is actually not that complex to arrive at. Look at the score, listen to comments by such proven experts as Liszt and Busoni, examine the competition, and then turn on the CD player. Some hints: the score's technical difficulty surpasses virtually everything else; Liszt has often been said to probably have been the greatest ever pianist, fearing no one, but of course Alkan; the competition, consisting of no mean pianists, keeps struggling with getting through all the notes (including Smith, Ogdon and Gibbons); hence, what do you hear?

I fully do understand why people throw away words like 'machine' or 'inhuman' trying to understand what they hear. As far as I know, Mr Hamelin is indeed very much a human being (have personally been blessed with several opportunities to verify that statement, first-hand); the difference is just that his pianistic abilities so apparently surpass everyone else's that things get somewhat awkward--or perhaps rather turned entirely upside down. Yes, Hamelin plays as good live as on record.

Is Alkan's Solo Concerto that greatest piano work ever written?
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