Alkan Charles-Valentin

  • Alkan Charles-Valentin

Er zijn van die verhalen die je niet met de waarheid moet verpesten. Een ervan is de dood van de Franse pianist en componist Charles-Valentin Alkan. Als virtuoos stond hij op dezelfde hoogte als tijdgenoten Franz Liszt en Frédéric Chopin, met wie hij bevriend was. Maar het wonderkind trok zich halverwege de twintig terug uit het openbare leven. Chopins dood en het politieke spel rond de muziek in Parijs zouden hebben bijgedragen aan zijn kluizenaarschap. Hij bleef wel componeren, en maakte studies en vertalingen van de Bijbel en de Talmoed. Alkan beheerste Hebreeuws en Grieks. ‘En tot slot, mijn zoon’, zegt het Bijbelboek Prediker, ‘nog deze waarschuwing: er komt geen einde aan het aantal boeken dat geschreven wordt, en veel lezen mat het lichaam af.’ Volgens de mythe werden zijn boeken Alkan inderdaad noodlottig. Op een dag reikte hij naar de Talmoed op de bovenste plank van de boekenkast, die omviel en hem verpletterde. Een later ontdekte brief van zijn huismeester bestreed deze lezing. Die schreef dat hij Alkan vond onder een kapstok in de keuken. (classicstogo.nl)

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The life and works of Charles-Valentin Alkan seem surrounded in mystery and legend. Born in Paris in 1813, Alkan was a quite extraordinary child prodigy who later became a close friend and neighbour of Chopin with whom he shared concerts in Paris in the 1830s and 40s. Although blessed with a phenomenal piano technique (Liszt once declared that Alkan had the finest technique he had ever known), Alkan preferred the quieter life of a composer and teacher, rarely venturing from his native Paris. His career suffered greatly for his being Jewish at a time when French society had strongly anti-Semitic elements in it, and this, coupled with a highly sensitive nature that made him very vulnerable to any form of criticism led him to lead a semi-reclusive existence for much of his life.

When he died in 1888 he left behind a remarkable legacy of compositions, mostly for piano, many of which were never performed in his lifetime. 

Through the printed page Alkan continued to influence future generations of composers — particularly Debussy and Ravel, both of whom made a special study of Alkan’s music — but it is only recently that his own forgotten masterpieces such as the Concerto for Solo Piano and Symphony for Solo Piano have begun to reach a wider public after more than a century of neglect. The first recordings of these works didn't appear until as recently as the 1960s and since then public response to Alkan's music has been extraordinary and immediate. In the words of the American pianist Raymond Lewenthal, a pioneer of Alkan's music during this century: "Alkan seems to have something moving and exciting to say to people of our time. Audiences, sophisticated and unsophisticated respond to him."


Alkan's output is mostly for the piano, and is hugely varied, ranging from virtuoso piano studies written on a colossal scale, to exquisite and delightful miniatures depicting virtually every mood imaginable. Most of Alkan's works have highly imaginative titles, particularly his miniatures; it was the smaller pieces of Alkan that so intrigued the young Debussy. The subjects of these miniatures is wide-ranging: weather (e.g. Gros Temps), biblical scenes, death, popular events (Carnaval, Opera), pure atmosphere (Sighs, La Vision), or pure whimsy (Les Enharmoniques pokes fun at the ambiguity of musical notation). 

Read the whole story here: http://www.jackgibbons.com/alkan.htm

Yeol Eum Son is a remarkable pianist

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