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Ctos For Solo Pno/Troisieme Re [Import]

Charles-Valentin Alkan Audio CD

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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 Description

Product Description

Product Description

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

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hamelin Runs Alkan's Gauntlet... and Wins Sept. 21 2007
By Hexameron - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
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.

With this latest recording on Hyperion, however, Hamelin has cleaned all of the stains, sealed the cracks, and revamped his entire delivery. The only thing Hamelin didn't alter is his preferred tempo: really fast. After comparative listenings between both recordings, I was pleasantly stunned to find Hamelin's new interpretation showing far greater vision and musicianship than he ever achieved. The first gigantic movement, for instance, is more energized and lush, more dynamically contrasting and passionate. Hamelin's fast tempo now seems like a valid interpretative approach rather than a fault. Personally, I think Jack Gibbons's "Adagio" is on a higher plane, but Hamelin improves himself here, too; he lets Alkan's music brood and storm and never glazes over important moments. The third "Allegretto alla barbaresca" movement is a hair-raising and explosive thrillride. Hamelin's treatment of the torrential maelstrom of notes is less mechanical and more expressive. He succeeds in conveying Alkan's piquant and grandiose ideas, in addition to the sheer power of it all. Simply put, Hamelin's new performance of this "Frankenstein's monster" is in every facet superior to his original recording.

Alkan's "Troisiéme recueil de chants Op. 65" makes an extremely odd companion for the mammoth Concerto. The music is less ambitious and magnificent, but no less communicative. To my knowledge, the first four pieces of this set have never been recorded before. Smith calls the second, "Esprits follets" or "Goblins" "a kind of supersonic Mendelssohn scherzo." Those familiar with Alkan's music may recognize melodic similarities between this piece and the first movement of the Sonatine. The "Tempo giusto" recalls Schumann's sound world except for the frenetic ending, a blatant stamp of Alkan's style. "Horace et Lydie" is a rather intricate conception. It is apparently music set to an ancient text of dialogues in which each speaker must answer each other with an identically sized line or stanza. According to Smith, "Alkan follows the scheme meticulously. He switches registers between the stanzas and sets the first pair in the Dorian and the second in the Phrygian modes." Alkan's last number of the set, the "Barcarolle," is his famous miniature, and although Hamelin has recorded this before, I'm always impressed with his well-paced and haunting performance.

Bottom line: In my opinion, Jack Gibbons's recording of the Concerto for Solo Piano is still the benchmark. I would actually encourage those interested in Alkan, who have not yet heard the Concerto, to start there (Alkan: 12 Études, Op. 39). But I cannot deny the value of Hamelin's new recording and decidedly better performance of the Concerto. A parting message from Humphrey Searle: "Certainly no student of the extraordinary development of the piano and piano playing that took place in the last century should fail to know Alkan's work--know it intimately, and observe the important place he fills."
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alkan's Concerto and Other Works for the Piano Nov. 28 2007
By Amy - Published on Amazon.com
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. Hamelin seems acutely aware of the music's overall shape and competing inner voices, revealing this beautiful music. The final movement is very unique in tempo and harmonics, but Hamelin is certainly up to its manic moments. He manages to pull off the huge finale with great skill and good taste. If after listening to the Concerto you are gasping in disbelief the other pieces should calm things down a bit. Alkan wrote four volumes of chants using Mendelssohn's Songs without words as his inspiration. Starting with Vivante it's clear we are in a different, more intimate time in Alkan's life when he wrote these short pieces. My favorite of the miniatures is the Barcarolle which has a gentle charm, dreamy yet without ever losing that all important sense of focus and clarity. With performing any work by Alkan that is a remarkable achievement. Sadly, Alkan's music is not very well known or performed, but if you find yourself wanting to listen to real virtuostic playing and some very unique music I think you will enjoy this cd very much.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars (*) Everyone: Keep a copy if everything goes wrong! Sept. 3 2008
By C. Pontus T. - Published on Amazon.com
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? No, but considering the perverse neglect it's been exposed to ever since composed, one might say it's indeed the greatest relative to its recognition. But even the sun has its spots, and so has the Concerto. Personally, I would have tried to substitute some of the first movement's innumerable broken right-hand octaves--but, on the other hand, admittedly I'm not a particularly great composer.

As to the competition, actually there is some--not from Smith, Ogdon or Gibbons, but from Hamelin himself; claims on Gibbons being the benchmark are best just ignored. How would I know? I can actually confess to having learnt loving this Concerto through Gibbon's recording (Alkan: 12 Études, Op. 39--don't ask how many times I've played it, only my CD player would know). However, since the arrival of Hamelin's first rendition (Music & Arts), when listening to Gibbons, I only end up paying attention to all those instances where the score extends beyond the reach of all 'human', or better normally-skilled, pianists. With Hamelin's remake out, the only reason for still allowing Gibbons shelf space would be minor-key Etudes Nos 1-3 and 11, not yet recorded by Hamelin.

To conclude, my previous desert island disc (Charles-Valentin Alkan: Concerto For Solo Piano) thus has now been replaced--which is exactly what I feared in my previous review after having learnt of the pending remake. Why? Hexameron very accurately points out that the remake shows 'greater vision', with the first movement in particular being 'more dynamically contrasting and passionate'. However, he is wrong when it comes to tempo, energy and excitement, where the first rendition still is unsurpassed, if by a tiny margin. The differences between the two versions are in the details rather in overall conception, in contrast to the entirely 'revamped [...] delivery' being suggested in Hexameron's review. What tips the scales for me is the greater relaxed, sophisticated beauty of the remake, realised through a vastly superior recorded sound--in fact one of Hyperion's better (Potton Hall), not far from the reference reproduction of Demidenko's definitive Liszt Sonata (Snape Maltings--Nikolai Demidenko Plays Liszt). I don't mean to diminish the bonus value of the addition of Troisieme recueil de chants to the catalogue, exceedingly charming as they are--they just play in an altogether division.

If everything goes wrong, this is the one disc worth preserving to demonstrate to other civilisations, species, or whatever they may be, what mankind referred to as piano playing.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful rendering of a masterpiece by a master composer Feb. 16 2008
By B. Stewart - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Charles-Valentin Alkan, although essentially a recluse, was remarkably kind. Despite his desire to remain seperated from society, people who encountered him claimed that he was not only polite, but friendly. Though religiously anti-social, characterized by one picture of him holding an umbrella and facing away from the camera (1 of only 2 known photographs of the virtuoso, a portrait rounds out the 3 known images of the mysterious wonder), Alkan had a manner that apparently won over the people with whom he spoke. Alkan's life is mostly a mystery; and it was such even when he was alive due to his isolation. According to the liner notes, an obituary in 'Le Menestrel' stated that "Charles-Valentin Alkan has just died. It was necessary for him to die in order to suspect his existence;" a bit cold, perhaps, but oddly telling of a man who had the abilities to be at the center of society's greatest circles but chose to remain alone. The article went on to state that Alkan was "an artist infinitely greater than thousands of his more celebrated and praised contemporaries". I would go so far as to say that he was infinitely more talented than many "greats" who came before him.
Even the manner of his death was bizarre; he was crushed as he reached for a book and the bookcase fell over on him; a strange, and sad, end to a strange life. But what he left behind, his compositions, speak volumes about the genius that he was.
Surprisingly, Alkan's first instrument was not the piano, his public debut, at age 7, a prodigious performance on the violin. His debut on piano came five years later at the age of 12 when he performed several of his own compositions. He attended and excelled in his studies at the Conservatoire (Paris) and became a favorite of his teacher, Joseph Zimmerman, eventual head of the piano department. Alkan's failure to be appointed as Zimmerman's replacement may lend to the public shunning that became a general life-long decision to live as a bit of a hermit; albeit a talented hermit.

His music, technically some of the most difficult piano work ever composed (so I understand), is strikingly different than the man. Brash, loud, and amazingly intense, his works are a wonder to this untrained ear (I don't play piano, but I can hear the complexity). His contemporaries lauded him as a wonder; Liszt stated that Alkan's technique was the greatest he had ever known. Alkan was described as the Berlioz of the piano. Alkan's etudes are considered the most significant after Chopin and Liszt, perhaps only less significant because he has so tragically fallen out of public view in to a sad and unfortunate obscurity that is now finally being broken by virtuoso pianists who are willing and able to record the complex pieces composed by one of history's greatest composer/pianists.

Performed masterfully by Hamelin is a stunning and exhausting version of Alkan's 'Concerto for Solo Piano', 3 movements from Alkan's Op. 39 which consists of 12 etudes, 4 of which were titled 'Symphony for Solo Piano'. Alkan apparently thought somewhat outside the box (if you'll excuse the cliche). These 3 movements, Allegro assai, Adagio, and Allegretto, are a wonder. The fact that only 2 hands are making this monstrous, thunderous jubilee of sound is amazing. The stamina required to perform such a piece, not even considering the complexity of the piece, is astounding. I can feel Hamelin's exhaustion grow as he performs these 3 astonishing movements.

Also included on the disc is Alkan's 3rd Book of Chants; again, outside the box. These consist of 6 pieces which are a showcase, once again, for virtuoso performance, but the pieces are somehow softer, more personal. They are warm and endearing; they draw you in and make you feel the emotion of the piece. It is said that Alkan's inspiration for this composition was Mendelssohn's 'Songs without Words'. I Vivante is lovely, soft and melodic. II Prestissimo is titled 'Esprits follets' ('Goblins') and is slightly more intense, active, yet still softer than the intensity of the 'Concerto'. III Canon: Assez vivement is said to be a lullaby; it is quite soothing, yet still complex and piercing. IV Tempo giusto is a polonaise, a dance, and therefore upbeat and powerful; rising in emotion and fury. V Vivacissimo: Horace et Lydie is, from what I understand, based upon one of Horace's Odes in which a dialogue has 2 conversing parties (Horace and Lydie) that must respond in the same number of verses. It is a mildly quick piece that is dark and light, deep and high, remarkably uplifting while remaining a bit 'uncomfortable'. The piece is a marvel. VI Barcarolle: Assez lentement is, much in the vein of the inspiration, Mendelssohn, a rolling, lavish and flavorsome piece that is slow and captivating. It is a beautiful piece that slowly sings the soft sea rhythms evoked by a barcarolle. The final piece is probably one of Alkan's more popular, if any of his pieces could be considered such.

Hamelin has proven that his virtuosity is unquestionable, if it ever was, in this eloquent and enveloping performance. His ability to handle the intensity of one movement and the restraint of the next is amazing. I can only imagine how difficult this must have been to perform; and yet Mr. Hamelin does so flawlessly. The recording is perfect. The sound is perfect. The performance is perfect.

This disc is priced slightly higher than most, but trust me when I tell you that it is worth the few extra dollars. The ability to transcend time and hear, perhaps, what dear Charles-Valentin Alkan did when he performed over 100 years ago, is worth the expense.

You must own this CD!

Recommended by my friend Amy; thank you! Her review above is excellent!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jaw Dropping Composition, Astounding Performance Dec 18 2009
By Dr. Debra Jan Bibel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Although I was raised on the romantic 19th-century piano works of Chopin, I was not prepared for Alkan, an essentially unknown composer whose obituary of 1888 in one paper said, "It was necessary for him to die in order to suspect his existence." For a period, he was a highly regarded concert performer and received praise from Liszt and Busoni; however, it is his compositions that interest us. The 50-minute Concerto for Solo Piano comprises three of Alkan's 12 studies. It is a tour de force of high technical difficulty and compositional innovation. At the end, I felt as if run over by a truck. Marc-André Hamelin, who already floored me with his album, In A State of Jazz, is probably one of the very few who could succeed riding that lightning bolt. The remainder of this album is a group of Alkan's melodies influenced by Mendelsohn's Songs without Words. The chants allow us to recover from the previous fury. These brief pieces are pleasant and light while still demanding, each tightly structured and surprisingly unique. Thank you, Princes of Serendip, for leading me to this unexpected treasure.
ARRAY(0xb4c8ad38)

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