Alkan was born to Jewish parents, and all of his siblings five brothers and a sister were musicians who assumed the surname Alkan. Valentin drew notice at age seven, when he won the first of many first prizes at the Paris Conservatory, and by 17 he had established a reputation as a virtuoso pianist. His music, difficult and often unorthodox, displays considerable ingenuity and imagination in advancing the possibilities of keyboard technique; in this respect Ferruccio Busoni , an Italian composer and pianist, considered him to be excelled only by Liszt and Johannes Brahms. Alkan himself felt that he was overshadowed by Liszt. In his rare concert appearances he preferred to play the works of 18th-century composers then out of fashion , rather than his own compositions. Valentin Alkan. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree
by Bruno Fraitag
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It is a work of twenty-five variations based on an original theme and is in E minor. The work requires exceptional virtuosic skills, with extremely fast overlapping octaves, fast scales with left accompaniments, enormous leaps, rapid octave chords, tremolos, double octaves and trills. A typical performance of this piece lasts 10 minutes. According to legend, Xanthus required his slave Aesop to arrange a feast containing every variety of food. However, at the feast all the guests were served with tongue , which, Aesop explained, encompassed every variety of human knowledge and emotion. Although this story is indicated by Alkan's title, and is in itself a parable about the variation form, there seem to be clear indications in the music, from the animal noises suggested, to Aesop's many fables about animals.
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It was necessary for him to die in order to suspect his existence. So, where to start with Alkan? Where to start playing Alkan — well, it depends. For advanced pianists looking for a challenge, I would recommend the Sonatine Op
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