Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Marc-André Hamelin: Alkan's Symphony for Solo Piano




Charles-Valentin Alkan, composer; Marc-André Hamelin, performer.

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This is taken from "12 études in all the minor keys," Op.39, a 12-piece cycle of piano music. The 12 pieces combine to form, in order: three independent pieces (Nos 1-3), a four-movement symphony (Nos 4-7), a three-movement solo concerto (Nos 8-10), an overture (No. 11), and 25 variations depicting the animals of Aesop's fables (No. 12, La festin d'Esope).

This video clip is taken from the Symphony for Solo Piano, études 4-7 (called Symphonie pour Piano Seul), the fourth movement (Finale). The piano symphony comes in under 30 minutes.  The opus in its entirety was first published in 1861. (See here for more on Charles-Valentin Alkan.)

The études are not only technically demanding, but physically as the concerto alone takes almost an hour to play.Undoubtedly, one can focus on the technical aspects, but it's still about the music, Hamelin said in a New York Times profile of him: "I play things that are outwardly flashy. But if there were no music in it, I wouldn’t bother with it. If people only see the artifice, I feel that I’ve failed.”