Parigi, 1813-1888

Charles Valentin Alkan

Charles-Valentin Morhange was another child prodigy (both he and his brothers – also musicians – adopted their father’s first name, Alkan, as their last name).
He started at the Conservatoire de Paris when he was only six years old, and studied piano and organ with Joseph Zimmermann and he was noted immediately for his incredible talent (as Cherubini described in reference to his technique).
At just 14 he wrote his first composition and at 24 he was already considered one of the greatest virtuosos of his time (Liszt declared that Alkan had the most perfect technique that he had ever seen). Still, despite his enormous talent he withdrew to private life in 1850 and true to his Jewish origins dedicated himself to reading the Bible and the Talmud.
He died in Paris in 1888 leaving behind an as yet undiscovered piece that is probably one of the most difficult pieces of music in the repertory for piano ever from a technical point of view. However, as the great pianist Marc-André Hamel said, the music is worth the effort it takes to master the incredibly difficult technique.
Among his compositions, the Preludes op. 31, two books of Etudes, a Symphony and a Concerto for piano solo and a few compositions of chamber music are notable. Even though, while he was alive he was greatly admired by Ferruccio Busoni and Anton Rubinstein, after his death he fell into oblivion and it is only in the last century that he has begun to be rediscovered.

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