Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Discovering The Music of France - Alkan

Since ABC Classic FM is running the Classic 100 - The Music of France, I thought it'd be interesting to explore some of the French composers it's opening up. The great thing about the voting list is it has links to Wikipedia and YouTube performances of some of the pieces. So it's an easy way to discover new works.

I'm starting with Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888) who was a virtuoso pianist and composer. I randomly chose his 12 Etudes in Major Keys for my first dip in the playlist and it's really quite something. I also have to recommend his Barcarolle and La Vision from his Esquisses, Op 63.

It seems he was somewhat of a recluse, in one of the only known photos of him he has his back to the camera, and not many people were in his circle. He was still highly respected by his contemporaries including Liszt, and his organ music was and is influential in French organ music.

There's something very enigmatic about him from the little I've sampled. His piano music is beautiful Romantic stuff but slightly 'different'. He did apparently try to avoid certain styles and keys and put things into somewhat bizarre keys to do so. And then there's his Funeral March for a Parrot, a strange piece with bassoon, oboes and voices with lyrics asking if the parrot was eaten.

A fascinating figure and one whose music I hope to sample more of.

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