Alkan – Grande Sonate, Symphonie pour Piano solo

Grande Sonate “Les Quatre Ages” Symphonie pour Piano Solo
Vincenzo Maltempo
Release date: April 2012

​​Any new recording of Charles-Valentin Alkan is an event, which hopes to widen the public appreciation of this still unknown genius of the French Romantic period. After his unsuccessful efforts at a brilliant concert career, Alkan went into reclusion, concentrating on teaching and composing his totally unique oeuvre mainly written for piano solo. One of the greatest virtuosos of his time (even Franz Liszt was nervous to play in his presence) he wrote piano music of the most colossal proportions, scope and difficulty. This new recording by the young and extraordinarily gifted young Italian Vincenzo Maltempo brings together two of Alkan masterworks: the Grande Sonata “Les Quatre Ages” (in which Alkan musically describes the several stages of Man’s Life, from exuberant youth to tragic old age), and the Symphonie pour piano solo, a dramatic four movement work in Classical/Romantic style. As an encore the fiendishly difficult Etude for two hands unisono, a pianistic tour de force.

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5 Stelle su Diapason


Rafael Sala

/ Piano News

The interpreter is certainly not second to the composer: as piano compositions by Charles Valentin Alkan are in fact highly virtuosic, so bright is the pianist who faces them, the Italian Vincenzo Maltempo. A wonderful technique, sounds like carved in marble, a courageous and strong execution: difficult to overcome the intensity reached in a work like the Sonata "Les Quatres ages".

Andrew Clements

/ The Guardian

Alkan's hyperbolic piano music has always seemed an acquired taste. Monumental in its scale and ambition, and vociferously championed by its supporters, it's too often disappointing in performance, with little to show for the huge virtuoso effort involved in playing it. But Vincenzo Maltempo pairs two of Alkan's best-known works, the programmatic Op 33 Sonata, Les Quatre Ages, and the four pieces from the 12 Studies in the Minor Keys Op 39 that make up his solo-piano Symphony, and reveals them as music of great lyrical beauty. Maltempo does not attempt to disguise the more derivative passages (Chopin is regularly invoked and Liszt sometimes anticipated, while the first movement of the Symphony worries away at a theme from Schumann's Op 17 Fantasy), he plays them all with such conviction and poise that the music seems totally of a piece. There's no flinching from the most extreme technical demands – the fiendish second movement of the Sonata, Quasi Faust, is triumphantly negotiated – and the sheer strangeness and power of the invention is given free rein. Exhilarating, and a real revelation.

Etienne Moreau

/ Diapason

[...] Vincenzo Maltempo is definite, imaginative and clear in mastering with intelligence moods almost Schumannian and its gradual slowdown [Grand Sonata Op 33]. In Symphony for solo piano, from the more conventional structure, this young performer (27 years old this year) find a resolute and energetic tone without sentimentality or stiffness, and tends an effective arc from the beginning to the end of this path. Without philosophizing and unostentatiously he does not hesitate to dwell on the beauty of a theme, an agreement or harmony, giving the music a certain order. We must return to the pioneering - and undervalued - recordings of Ronald Smith (EMI) to find an approach so healthy and convincing to the music of Alkan.


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