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Alkan:Pno Music

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

Price: £15.95
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Product details

  • Audio CD (7 Jun. 1999)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: High Performance
  • ASIN: B00000I9MM
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 339,855 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Le Festin D'Esope (No. 12, Douze etudes dans les tons mineurs, Op. 39)
  2. Barcarolle, Op. 65, No. 6
  3. Quasi - Faust (Second Movement, Grande Sonate, Op. 33)
  4. Symphonie (Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7, Douze etudes dans les tons mineurs, Op. 39): Allegro moderato
  5. Symphonie (Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7, Douze etudes dans les tons mineurs, Op. 39): Marche funebre
  6. Symphonie (Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7, Douze etudes dans les tons mineurs, Op. 39): Menuet
  7. Symphonie (Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7, Douze etudes dans les tons mineurs, Op. 39): Finale
  8. Hexameron: Introduction
  9. Hexameron: Theme
  10. Hexameron: Variation I
  11. Hexameron: Variation II
  12. Hexameron: Variation III
  13. Hexameron: Interlude I
  14. Hexameron: Variation IV
  15. Hexameron: Variation V
  16. Hexameron: Interlude II
  17. Hexameron: Variation VI
  18. Hexameron: Interlude III
  19. Hexameron: Finale

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This recording has remained a firm favourite since I discovered it back in the 70's. Time simply hasn't dimmed the visceral power of the playing, and Lewenthal's power at climactic points (e.g. listen to 'Quasi-Faust) is exhilerating - in the animal-descriptive 'Le Festin d'Aesop' he at one point creates the musical equivalent of a stampede. Some in recent times have claimed a preference for Hamelin - often citing the greater abundance of keyboard colour he has at his disposal. Fabulous as his playing of this music is (and I'd recommend the Concerto for Solo to anyone) I can't help the feeling that Lewenthal's steely approach better suits much of this music, echoing what many said of Alkan's own unbending character.
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Format: Audio CD
Mindblowing reading of some of Alkan's most mind bending virtuosic piano music, played with such aplomb that it's almost tongue-in-cheek. Lewenthal plays the Symphony for piano like nothing before or since, it is just incredible. In comparison to Ronald Smith on APR, Lewenthal is stupendous, his daring virtuosity and power are almost frightening. This isn't late Beethoven, it's 19th century virtuoso piano music so if your expecting opus 111, move on. Alkan was an incredibly gifted pianist and innovative composer, never more convincingly played than here by Lewenthal. The Hexameron is a wonderful curiousity handled with verve, panache and sheer joy by Lewenthal (because he can!!!!)
A great testament to Lewenthal's art and sense of fun. 10 stars isn't enough
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars 6 reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Discovering Alkan 5 Nov. 2001
By Robert W. Allen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Many years ago, as I understand the story, Ray Lewenthal was in New York City's Central Park when he was attacked by a mugger. He recovered, swore he'd never return to New York City ever, and moved to France to recouperate. While there, he made the happy discovery of some works by the eccentric French composer, Charles Valentin Alkan. The rest, as they say, is history.
My own discovery of Alkan happened when I was in college at the University of Vermont in the late 60's. A fellow music student had discovered a recording of Lewenthal playing Alkan and spent a great deal of time trying to convert the rest of us to a better understanding of Alkan. And so it was.
While I now delight in owning collections of Alkan's music performed by others, especially Hamelin, I believe that Lewenthal is the best of the bunch, and I couldn't be happier that these recordings have been reissued. I particularly wanted this one because it included Lewenthal's performance of the Hexameron, a work by Liszt, Thalberg, Czerny, Chopin ,etc., and is based on the principal that "anything you can play, I can play louder and faster." This whole CD, in fact, is pure fun from the opening of the eccentric Festival of Aesop to the final fiery conclusion of the Hexameron. Just keep telling yourself that a weird French composer who collected parrots can't be all bad.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars (No title) 25 Jan. 2000
By offeck - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This disc was my introduction to Alkan.
From Alkan, I've gone to Busoni, Stevenson, Godowsky, Thalberg, and, most recently, Sorabji.
Being an Alkan-holic, I now have recordings from such pianists as Hamelin, Smith, Reach, Gibbons, McCallum, Feofanov, Martin, Ponti, Ringeissen, Ogdon, Petri, and Howard.
Coming full-circle, this disc is probably the best introduction to Alkan and Alkan-like-composition(s) and performance(s) out there. I would (and I do) recommend it to anybody and everybody, especially those who claim to be piano-philes, but somehow can't move beyond the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata.
The disc is more than affordable, the pianism is outstanding, the liner notes are detailed and anything but boring, the music is over-all very enjoyable, and the sound on the disc is spectacular, and increasingly so, in proportion to the volume at which it is played. -- You just can't go wrong with this disc.
Highlights: Track 1, track 2 (but most importantly the last last minute or so), track 7, and--most of the Hexameron, but in particular--track 19.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Great Piano Records 6 April 2011
By Edgar Self - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
One of the best recordings of a piano that I know, and playing of the rarest order. Lewenthal's bravura sweeps all before him, and his exquisite playing in the two minutes of Chopin's contribution are worth the outlay. "Hexameron" commemorates the only time that Liszt's old teacher Carl Czern, was in Paris. Czerny, Liszt, his rival Thalberg, Henri Herz, Pixis, and Chopin contributed a variation each on "Sound the Trumpet of Liberty" from Bellini's "I Puritani" at the request of Liszt's friend, the Princess Belgioioso. Liszt strung them all in a glittering extravaganza, giving Thalberg pride of place, and creating a jewel-like setting for Chopin's variation, then re-capitulating and topping them all (except Chopin) in an exhilarating finale.

The Alkan is also great: the Symphony for solo piano; "Festin d'Esope", Barcarolle, and "Quasi-Faust movement from the grand sonata. and Highest possible recommendation. What is it about RCA's "High Performance" series that makes them sound so good?
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful recording 29 Mar. 2011
By David - Published on Amazon.com
Enjoyable recording all around, but mainly for the Alkan Quasi-Faust movement. Lewenthal was a trailblazer.

This LP (yes, I have the original vinyl version) introduced me to Alkan, and I have since branched out to many other pieces. But it's the "Quasi Faust" movement that is mind-boggling. I wouldn't say that Alkan is uniformly great music, but I believe that the Quasi Faust movement is a masterpiece, similar in scale and power to the Liszt B minor and is even more technically difficult (I got the sheet music wanting to learn it and then thought better of it, opting to learn the previous movement, "Vingt Ans" instead). But it's not just technical difficulty that makes it appealing, I think the piece has much emotional depth depicting a tormented man dealing with love and demons (I think love triumphs here). I wish Lewenthal had recorded the entire Sonata, but am thankful for this stunning and dynamic performance. I have Weiss' recording of the entire Grand Sonata: his Quasi Faust movement is nearly four minutes slower than Lewenthal's and is much less satisfying to me, though I welcome Weiss' recording the other movements plus many miniatures. Hamelin's recording of "Vingt Ans" is amazingly fast, and I hope Hamelin's recording of the entire sonata becomes available on MP3. Lewenthal's other Alkan recording (of miniatures) is also quite interesting, but I prefer the "big" pieces (the Grand Sonata excerpt and the Symphonie) that he includes on this album. The Hexameron is an entertaining oddity of theme and variations by multiple piano virtuosi including Thalberg, Herz, Chopin, Czerny, Pixis. Lightweight but a fun "museum piece" showcasing some composers you might not hear otherwise, the last piece reminding me of the reprise in St. Saens' Carnival of the Animals. But as for operatic fantasies, I prefer the depth of Liszt's Reminiscences of Norma, also recorded by Lewenthal and others.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vision and conviction! 27 Dec. 2008
By Hiram Gòmez Pardo Venezuela - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
There's a visible superior vision at the moment to regard the main difference between a pianist and a piano player. A true pianist must be provided of a sublime expression blended with technique, but the reverse of the coin seems to be very abandoned which is the cultural refinement of the pianist. If you miss this cosmic vision of the world, your soul and spirit are limited and you will never obtain the coveted close acquaintance between soloist and score.

The particular case of Raymond Lewenthal is worth to pay attention not only because his personal encounter with the violent urban reality (attacked by thieves in USA) fact which made him to flee to Europe, but besides the root of his interpretations seems to follow that spirit's call. To fly to Italy just to search inspiration at the moment to record some piano works of Franz Liszt (in this case we are talking about Totentanz) may be a simple anecdote for many people but it carves in relief and even underpins a most solid performance, far beyond the musical demands of the script.

Most of Romantic composers visualized the spirit of his compositions, finding in the literature, paintings or natural landscapes before composing them. From Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Berlioz and Liszt we may feel that distinctive factor that impregnated works such as Raindrop (15th Prelude Op. 28), Songs without words, Manfred, The Trojans or Years of pilgrimage, for instance. This inspiration literally broke the frontiers of the musical Nationalism and expanded a most robust artistic profile for the work making it more universal and better understood.

So, if this was true for the composers should be doubly obvious for the performers, but since the end of the WW2 the artistic world seemed to enter in a sort of an Apollonian approach, in which the facts and personal livings have extinguished and minimized these basic principles of the musical interpretation.

Make yourself this question silently. How many young pianists have considered to write a book in order to express his personal and artistic convictions? . You may argue there are many compromises in their personal schedule, but think for instance in Paul Badura Skoda,Daniel Barenboim, David Dubal, for instance; it's very difficult to find an interview in which they don't make reference to literary cites. Andras Shiff is another example that comes to my mind but these artists seem to be an exception, not the rule, and that hurts.

Lewenthal has been one of these few artists compromised with music into an integral vision and that's why his Alkan sounds so interesting and convincing.

Don't miss this referential album.
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