Friday, June 19, 2015

More on One of Music's Greater Enigmas- Charles Valentin Alkan...

Before going into this blog, may I suggest that you  go back to my January, 2009 blog,  for base reference in the event  that you are not terribly familiar with this rather unique figure in music?

I suppose that, arguably, the most enrapturing facet of  the life of  Charles Valentin Alkan may be his demise; after all, being done in by a section of one's own library smacks of  the Unusual.
Whether or not he was killed by a falling section  of his   personal Talmudic library, or a clothes or umbrella holder (History continues to debate the exact conditions surrounding his final day), I  am in a continuum of consternation whenever I think of, or listen to the music of this gifted musician.
For instance; to be admitted to conservatoire at age six is not an every day affair in human history - or, say, to have Chopin, Delacroix, Liszt, Dumas and  Sand as admirers, and yet  remain nothing more than a name  in rather constant obscurity for much of the time between  the period of his life span, and  today.
Additionally, to be  father of an illegitimate son who also played magnificently, but disappeared into the shadows, taking with him an image of the owner of such pets as cockatoos and apes.
Charles Valentin was an integral member of the Circle listed above; at the same time, he preferred living in more than one location during any particular  period, so that he would be more effectively unavailable to those in search of him.
To enrapture not only those luminaries he knew so well, with his reportedly fantastic piano prowess, but also audiences for whom he performed (he became really well-known in the Parisian arena); and disappear for a generation or so, then reappear  as that ravishing player of  the piano and YES, the pedal piano, followed by, seemingly, that strange death -
And what about the music that he wrote?
He is the ONLY composer I have ever heard that leaves me with the following reaction:
His music has an aura of no, or little elemental originality, and is music which is most decidedly  unique; all at the same time.
Go figure.
The mathematics embedded in his compositions are hugely impressive, and a number of his works  fall into the category of being among the most difficult ever written for the piano  in sheer physical technique - every bit the equal, in so many ways, to the pyrotechniqes of his friend Liszt.
Listen to Raymond Lewenthal, a superb  player of the piano, no longer with us, who recorded a goodly number of the works of Alkan.
Do listen; and let's see if confusion reigns among your thoughts, like me...


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