A major addition to the library of Alkan on record from a leading young exponent of lesser-known Romantic piano repertoire.
First published in 1847, these preludes form a highly original set of pieces, effectively Alkan’s first foray into the genre of cyclic shorter pieces. The set stands aside from so many in its consistently reflective and introspective approach to a genre recently redefined by Chopin. The key sequence guides us through all the major and minor keys, but instead of settling for all 24 major and minor tonalities, Alkan comes full circle for a twenty-fifth and final C major prelude to complete the set.
Alkan had in mind that the Preludes might equally effectively be played on piano or organ – that they might even serve liturgical functions as chorale preludes or instrumental antiphons. However, they have always been regarded as piano music first and foremost, albeit possessed of an often tranquil and reflective temperament, anticipating the mystical works of Liszt such as the Harmonies poétiques et réligieuses (it will be remembered that Liszt regarded Alkan alone as a serious rival to his pianistic prowess).
Mark Viner has made his name playing Alkan’s music, and he is widely regarded as among the composer’s most persuasive advocates on record. ‘His playing is never showy,’ remarked the Guardian when reviewing a previous Piano Classics album of the Op.35 Etudes: ‘he emphasises that these are profound explorations of early romantic sensibility first and extreme technical challenges second, and that is a totally convincing way of dealing with some of the most remarkable piano music of its time.’ Viner was praised by The Sunday Times for ‘turning Alkan’s forbidding torrents of notes into real music’.
This much-anticipated new album is enhanced by Viner’s own, authoritative booklet essay giving full context both to the Preludes and their reception.
The second instalment of a unique and colossal project: the recording of the complete piano works by Alkan by British pianist Mark Viner!
Mark Viner took the musical world by storm by his innovative concert programs and CD recordings of rarely heard repertoire of unjustly forgotten romantic composers. His Thalberg, Chaminade and Alkan recordings earned him 5 star reviews: “Editor’s Choice Gramophone (Chaminade), “A wonderful artistic case for an ultra-idiosyncratic idiom..a remarkable release in every aspect (5-star BBC Music Magazine), “simply an astonishing performance” (Sunday Times), “Viner rises to Alkan’s extraordinary challenges” (5-star in Guardian).
Alkan’s Preludes are a far cry from his better known ultra-virtuoso etudes. They are mostly introspective, varying from dark, gloomy and surreal to innocent, childishly happy and spiritual. They are written in all the major and minor keys.
Mark Viner, Chairman of the Alkan and Liszt Society, wrote the excellent liner notes for this release himself.