Alkan – The Man, The Music

Ronald Smith

Alkan: lonely 19th century genius, virtuoso pianist and also composer of some of the most difficult and disturbingly powerful piano music. This edition, in two parts, deals first with the man, and second with his music.






The definitive book on Alkan, a lonely 19th century genius, virtuoso pianist and also composer of some of the most difficult and disturbingly powerful piano music. Originally published in two volumes, the first (Alkan the Man) dealt with the composer’s life, background and personality while the second (Alkan the Music) reviewed and analysed the composer’s considerable output. This extensively revised reprint in one volume encompasses recent Alkan discoveries, new works, manuscripts, supporting documents and other fresh evidence. There are revised appendices, an expanded bibliography and a new discography which allows the reader to track the proliferation of recordings up to the present day.



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About the Author

Ronald Smith lived in Sussex and was educated at the Brighton College of Music and later won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. He studied privately with Marguerite Long in Paris and completed a BMus degree at Durham University. As a concert pianist, Smith championed the piano works from the romantic period, in particular those of Charles-Valentin Alkan, who he recorded extensively. His detailed research led him to discover much new information about this reclusive composer.


Book 1: Alkan – The Man:
1. Prodigy
2. Virtuoso
3. Delaborde
4. A Lost Symphony
5. The “Grande Sonate”
6. Marmontel
7. Recluse
8. Prometheus Bound
9. Les Petit Concerts
10. The Final Years
11. The Death of Alkan
12. Rescue of a Lost Cause
13. Personality and Appearance
14. The Reluctant Virtuoso
15. The Music
Index of Alkan’s Works
List of Illustrations
Family Tree of Alkan Morhange
Book 2: Alkan – The Music:
Introduction and Acknowledgements
1. Early Works
2. The Concerti da Camera
3. The Crystallisation of Style
4. The Miniatures
5. The Thirty Chants
6. The Grande Sonate and Sonatine
7. Trois Grandes Etudes Op.76
8. Douze etudes Op.35
9. Douze etudes Op.39
10. Miscellaneous piano music
11. Transcriptions and Cadenzas
12. Chamber Music
13. Orchestral and Vocal Music
14. Organ or Pedal-piano?
15. Alkan’s Creative Personality


This book, which contains a number of fascinating illustrations, should interest all lovers of 19th century piano music and introduces us to an uniquely historic figure.
Humphrey Searle – HiFi News

This is a book to linger over and savour, and from which to gain much more knowledge of some of the greatest piano music ever written.
Harold Truscott – Music & Musicians

I found this book completely absorbing.
Max Harrison – Musical Opinion

I’ll tell you how good this book is: it kept me from piano practice before an important engagement. I’m sure its wisdom will inform my future piano practice and compensate for what it stole today.
Ronald Stevenson – Piano

This is an excellent overview of the life and works of the greatest pianist who ever lived by one of his foremost interpreters. Even Liszt was intimidated by the thought of playing in front of Alkan! It is strongly recommended for all lovers of classical music, but for pianists, it is indispensable.

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