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Why is Alkan so underrated? #2558111 07/22/16 07:05 PM
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JoelW Offline OP
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I find profound depth and meaning in his works. I don't why he has a bad reputation.

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Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: JoelW] #2558113 07/22/16 07:29 PM
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Bad reputation?? Underrated???

Hardly. He's been played and recorded by plenty of pianists, past & present, from Raymond Lewenthal, Ronald Smith, John Ogdon, Jack Gibbons to.....Marc-André Hamelin and beyond.

His eccentric life(style) and the (supposed) manner of his death may have given him a reputation for strangeness, but his music certainly doesn't drive the punters away. I remember attending a sold-out concert in which Hamelin played Alkan's Symphony. How many composers can sell out a solo concert?


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: JoelW] #2558114 07/22/16 07:38 PM
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I am curious about which particular pieces you find deep and meaningful.

I think the biggest problem with Alkan is that many of his pieces are about one third too long.

Another big problem is the extreme technical demands his music often makes. So many pianists either cannot play it successfully or don't think the result is worth the effort.

While much of his music is technically ingenious and original, I think it is often harmonically simple, and the melodies don't have the genius of the greatest composers.

So for me, Alkan would not be among the top 20 composers in terms of their piano music.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 07/22/16 07:38 PM.
Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: JoelW] #2558247 07/23/16 05:05 PM
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He more or less let himself fall into obscurity by not performing or promoting himself much after Chopin's death. He was a recluse for 20-something years before he stared reappearing in public again when he was much older. he was forgotten about more or less. Honestly, his eccentricies aren't farther out there than that of other composers.

More recently, I think he actually is getting the recognition he deserves, thanks a lot to the internet, YouTube, etc. Especially since around 2013, more pianists have been recording and performing his music. It's nice to see, and it isn't slowing down.

Busoni said he was one of the five best writers for the keyboard after Beethoven up to his time, along with Chopin, Brahms, Schumann, and Liszt (he didn't count Schubert, since he died just a year after Beethoven). I agree with it; in terms of piano music, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saens, Franck, Faure, etc. didn't have the compositional, technical, or imaginative mastery of the possibilities with the keyboard and writing for it that Alkan did.

PL, many people also complain that Schubert's piano music meanders on for too long as well, haha... Funnily enough, he is my favorite composer to play on piano (Alkan being #2).

Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: Orange Soda King] #2558270 07/23/16 07:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Orange Soda King

Busoni said he was one of the five best writers for the keyboard after Beethoven up to his time, along with Chopin, Brahms, Schumann, and Liszt [...] I agree with it; in terms of piano music, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saens, Franck, Faure, etc. didn't have the compositional, technical, or imaginative mastery of the possibilities with the keyboard and writing for it that Alkan did.

We have always agreed about Alkan, but I would be a little careful about consigning Mendelssohn, Saint-Saens, Franck and Faure to the sub-Alkan category. They wrote brilliantly and expertly for the piano, so ultimately why compare?

Alkan thrills and excites me -there is always something new to appreciate on repeated hearings- but I never hear much beneath the surface. It is very kinetic music, yet IMO, Franck probes far deeper. I wouldn't trade the two big piano triptychs for anything in Alkan, and his organ music is the greatest after Bach, ask any organist.


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Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: argerichfan] #2558291 07/23/16 10:45 PM
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Originally Posted by argerichfan

Alkan thrills and excites me -there is always something new to appreciate on repeated hearings- but I never hear much beneath the surface. It is very kinetic music, yet IMO, Franck probes far deeper. I wouldn't trade the two big piano triptychs for anything in Alkan, and his organ music is the greatest after Bach, ask any organist.

Couldn't agree more, I don't think Alkan can measure up against him as acomposer, although his piano output is small, unfortunately frown

Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: bennevis] #2558417 07/24/16 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Bad reputation?? Underrated???

Hardly. He's been played and recorded by plenty of pianists, past & present, from Raymond Lewenthal, Ronald Smith, John Ogdon, Jack Gibbons to.....Marc-André Hamelin and beyond.

His eccentric life(style) and the (supposed) manner of his death may have given him a reputation for strangeness, but his music certainly doesn't drive the punters away. I remember attending a sold-out concert in which Hamelin played Alkan's Symphony. How many composers can sell out a solo concert?
"Underrated" is a rather vague term but naming 5 pianists who perform(ed) his works a lot doesn't prove much IMO. For composers that are more popular one could name hundreds of pianists who performed their works a lot.

Many composers an sell out a solo concert and certainly do so with far more frequency than Alkan. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Schubert, and others would be on that list. With a composer like Chopin, there may be more all-Chopin recitals in a 6 month period than all the all-Alkan recitals in history.

Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: pianoloverus] #2558425 07/24/16 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus

Many composers an sell out a solo concert and certainly do so with far more frequency than Alkan. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Schubert, and others would be on that list. With a composer like Chopin, there may be more all-Chopin recitals in a 6 month period than all the all-Alkan recitals in history.

In London, of those composers you listed, only Beethoven, Chopin and Schubert has sold out concerts in my living memory - and only if the pianists are Pollini, Pollini, and, er.....Pollini respectively. (OK, Uchida for Schubert also, and Zimerman for Chopin).

Considering that Alkan is not up to the quality of many other French composers (an all-Fauré concert would empty a hall) - and even Saint-Saëns is a superior composer, but far fewer pianists play his solo piano music than Alkan's -, I'd say that Alkan punches well above his weight with the general classical music public........


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: pianoloverus] #2558473 07/24/16 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I am curious about which particular pieces you find deep and meaningful.

This is one of the best ones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUW2bqrbunY

There is such a wealth of originality in this piece. I never fail to find something new when I return to it. The theme at 1:14 is particularly leet, and the whole thing comes together at the end with an electrifying coda. I actually played this at my state fair's youth competition in 2008 and won.

Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: pianoloverus] #2558492 07/24/16 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus

Many composers an sell out a solo concert and certainly do so with far more frequency than Alkan. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Schubert, and others would be on that list. With a composer like Chopin, there may be more all-Chopin recitals in a 6 month period than all the all-Alkan recitals in history.

Wow. You are so smart. Thank-you so much for your contributions. What would we ever do without you?


Jason
Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: JoelW] #2558513 07/24/16 10:56 PM
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Originally Posted by JoelW
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I am curious about which particular pieces you find deep and meaningful.

This is one of the best ones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUW2bqrbunY

There is such a wealth of originality in this piece.[...]


Huh? Depth? Originality? Oom-Pah, Oom-Pah, with a lot of Bang-Bang-Bang at the end. If this is one of "the best ones" Alkan is shallow, indeed!

Surely, you're joking!

You played this at age 13? You must be quite the virtuoso by now!



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Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: BruceD] #2558518 07/24/16 11:19 PM
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I'm not joking. Maybe it's just the nostalgia.

Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: JoelW] #2558525 07/24/16 11:51 PM
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While Alkan does have his moments, I think your own post answers your original question.

V i V i V i V i i i just isn't that interesting.

Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: Orange Soda King] #2558529 07/25/16 01:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Orange Soda King

More recently, I think he actually is getting the recognition he deserves, thanks a lot to the internet, YouTube, etc.


... and thanks to Orange Soda King too of course!
You were actually the one who really made me curious about him and I now love him too. smile

PS: Joel, if you search in the recordings section you'll find quite a few recordings by OSK. thumb



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Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: JoelW] #2558535 07/25/16 01:42 AM
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Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: argerichfan] #2558621 07/25/16 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by argerichfan
Originally Posted by pianoloverus

Many composers an sell out a solo concert and certainly do so with far more frequency than Alkan. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Schubert, and others would be on that list. With a composer like Chopin, there may be more all-Chopin recitals in a 6 month period than all the all-Alkan recitals in history.

Wow. You are so smart. Thank-you so much for your contributions. What would we ever do without you?
Thanks so much for your gracious and characteristically unsarcastic comments! It's so nice to be appreciated by someone who can, albeit with great difficulty, understand the depth of my musical knowledge!!

Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: JoelW] #2558689 07/25/16 06:03 PM
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I've fallen into the old trap of stating my opinion as fact, my apologies, argerichfan.

Also, the wifi everywhere I've been in China so far (including the very nice hotels I've stayed in) is very slow, so I can't contribute as much or as often as I would like (to this thread, or on PW in general).

Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: JoelW] #2558736 07/25/16 10:30 PM
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I don't know about other people's reasoning for not caring for Alkan, but listening to his music gives me a headache. Why? Because in my opinion, his music is not often melodic and more often an intricately complex and abrasive collection of notes played quickly and/or without much change in dynamics.

Fingernails across a chalkboard I can deal with much more easily (shreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeak!!!), LOL.

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Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: DanS] #2558737 07/25/16 10:35 PM
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Originally Posted by DanS


While Alkan does have his moments, I think your own post answers your original question.

V i V i V i V i i i just isn't that interesting.


I agree. It is not my favourite piece by Alkan either.



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Re: Why is Alkan so underrated? [Re: DrewBone] #2558747 07/25/16 11:47 PM
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Originally Posted by DrewBone
I don't know about other people's reasoning for not caring for Alkan, but listening to his music gives me a headache. Why? Because in my opinion, his music is not often melodic and more often an intricately complex and abrasive collection of notes played quickly and/or without much change in dynamics.

Fingernails across a chalkboard I can deal with much more easily (shreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeak!!!), LOL.

Regards,
Andy


Try the Trente Chants or Op 22 Nocturne. Alkan was full of memorable melodies!

Also which piece(s) did Joel post? I can't view YouTube here.

Last edited by Orange Soda King; 07/25/16 11:52 PM.
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