Personalities | Charles Henri Valentin Alkan | Late Romantic | Classical
(Shärl On-re’ Va-lon-tan’ Al-kan’) 1813–88
French pianist and composer
One of the only virtuosos before whom Liszt, a contemporary, was believed to be anxious about playing, Alkan extended the technical challenges of piano repertory to astonishing new peaks. A child prodigy and young virtuoso, he performed alongside Frédéric François Chopin (1810–49), but thereafter became an eccentric recluse, seldom appearing in public. His death was as enigmatic as his life – he is rumoured to have been crushed under a falling bookcase while clutching his beloved Talmud. His prolific output includes the Symphony and Concerto for piano, and many colourful character pieces and studies for piano and organ which still daunt all but the greatest interpreters.
Piano Music, Marc-André Hamelin (Hyperion)
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