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Alkan: Concerto for Solo Piano Op 39 - Marc-Andre Hamelin

Alkan: Concerto for Solo Piano Op 39 - Marc-Andre Hamelin

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‘A performance of the Concerto of such brilliance and lucidity that one can only listen in awe and amazement. Scaling even the most ferocious hurdles with yards to spare, he is blessedly free to explore the very heart of Alkan's bewildering interplay of austerity and monstrous elaboration … you can only marvel at such a unique mix of blazing if nonchalantly deployed virtuosity and poetic conviction … all of this is superly recorded and presented, prompting some not unreasonable conjecture: if Liszt feared Alkan's mastery as a pianist he may well have feared Hamelin's’ (Gramophone)


‘This intelligent and magnificently-played programme, displaying contrasting sides of the composer's personality … The Concerto is an engrossing musical journey, ranging from hushed chorale textures to the dizzying cascades of notes that make an orchestra entirely superfluous … The performance is stunning. Aside from over a decade's more experience, Hamelin now has the benefit of Hyperion's stunning recorded sound … As for the performance, if anyone can play it better, expect to see the devil as their agent. It is not simply that Hamelin can negotiate the ferocious technical challenges. Like a great ballet dancer, he maintaines a clarity and beauty of line, so that the shape of the music is always clear and seems natural, however unnatural the demands made by Alkan … This is playing of the highest order in music that should be at the heart of the Romantic repertoire’ (BBC Music Magazine)


Douze Études dans tous les tons mineurs Op 39[49'23]
1
No 8 Concerto for solo piano movement 1: Allegro assai[28'14]
2
No 9 Concerto for solo piano movement 2: Adagio[11'51]
3
No 10 Concerto for solo piano movement 3: Allegretto alla barbaresca[9'18]

Troisième recueil de chants Op 65[17'50]
4
Vivante[2'44]
5
Esprits follets: Prestissimo[1'39]
6
Canon: Assez vivement[2'32]
7
Tempo giusto[3'41]
8
Horace et Lydie: Vivacissimo[3'14]
9
Barcarolle: Assez lentement[4'00]


Alkan was one of the greatest composer-pianists in history, with a voice as original as Chopin or Liszt, and a technique that even Liszt admitted was the greatest he had ever known. His music is of surpassing difficulty, and fell into relative obscurity in an age where published music was frequently aimed at amateurs. Its greatness is undeniable—but it unquestionably requires performances of unceasing brilliance.

Alkan’s Concerto for solo piano is one of the great pianistic high-wire acts—an epic work which demands unprecedented levels of technical ability and physical stamina. It is conceived on a breathtakingly grand scale and is rich with both orchestral sonorities and lyrical pianistic passages. The Troisième recueil de chants is a delightful rarity, rescued here from oblivion by the wonderful Marc-André Hamelin, who with his transcendent technique is simply one of the greatest living performers of this intoxicating music.

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