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:
Etudes Op.35 (PCL10127): ‘The finest account ever committed to disc.’ Gramophone
Preludes Op.31 (PCL10189): ‘Another quite exceptional disc…beautifully recorded.’ Gramophone
Grande Sonata Op.33 (PCL10209): ‘[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
- British pianist Mark Viner continues his complete Alkan-cycle with the 4th volume, containing one of the most extraordinary piano works of the 19th century, the Symphony for piano solo. It is one of Alkan’s most darkly impassioned conceptions, its declamatory rhetoric, passionate outbursts and towering climaxes all bound by a tightly organised structure. The sometimes ten note chords, thick, chordal tremoli and volleys of double octaves create a truly symphonic sound spectrum.
- Also included are the Three Marches “quasi da cavalleria’ Op. 37, the haunting Funeral March Op. 26 and the festive and pompous Triumphal March Op. 27.
- Mark Viner’s complete Alkan cycle is gaining widespread international attention. The 3rd volume, containing the massive Grande Sonate, received the prestigious Gramophone Award, as well as CD of the Month in International Piano.
- “For the second disc in his gargantuan 17-CD project of recording all Alkan’s music Mark Viner gives us the 25 Préludes with an exemplary musicianship and assurance...makes you eager for further issues from this outstanding and most enterprising pianist” (Bryce Morrison in International Piano). Viner’s previous recording of the Alkan Etudes Op 35 received 5 stars and CD of the Month in BBC Music Magazine as well as 5 stars in The Guardian (“Viner rises to Alkan’s extraordinary challenges”).
The booklet contains an excellent essay on Alkan and his works by the artist himself.