> ALKAN chamber music [RB]: Classical Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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ALKAN (Charles Valentin Morhange) (1813-1888)
Grand Duo Concertant for violin and piano Op. 21 (1840) [20.42]
Sonate de Concert for cello and piano Op. 47 (1856) [31.28]
Piano Trio Op. 30 (1839) [21.12]
Dong-Suk Kang (violin)
Yvan Chiffoleau (cello)
Olivier Gardon (piano)
rec. Mar/April 1992, Salle Adyar, Paris
TIMPANI 1C1013 [74.08]
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Alkan was counted in Busoni's pantheon of five romantics alongside Chopin, Schumann, Liszt and Brahms. Brahms and Schumann are the references in the euphoric Grand Duo Concertant - nothing short of a 20 or so minute Sonata in three turbulent movements. This is a work of diving romance and if Alkan had stopped in the style of the first movement then we would have been able to 'place' Alkan. Instead we get a second movement that clamours in bass heavy capering for all the world like a picture of a Black Sabbath. As if to make Ďamendsí the finale is back to the helter-skelter tumble of vivacity we find in the first movement. This euphoria carries over into the Cello Sonata which is in four classically well-tailored movements. Alkan's originality or eccentricity (take your pick) returns for the Adagio which is part sentimental and part affecting. This perhaps offers a parallel with Joseph Holbrooke's chamber works in which sublime ideas and treatment suddenly find themselves up against kitsch music hall ditties. A wild saltarello with grand manner Hungarian gestures from the piano round out the picture. I can also see where Saint-Saëns may have picked up some of his ideas for the Second Piano Concerto. Torrents of notes and a hyper-romantic melos stride through the Trio. The second movement is tartly decked out with brusque interjections by the strings while the piano rushes wild-eyed about the scene. From time to time Alkan seeks inspiration in Mozartian repose and this is the case here in the lentement movement although he also made me think of Schubert's String Quintet. The trio pull out all stops and flattens the speed-humps for the vite finale. Bravo!

These are provocatively fluent performances of little known chamber works by one of the Grainger-like misfits of the nineteenth century. If you are a devotee of the romantic piano (Hyperion, Vox, Genesis) you will not want to be without this. Notes by Harry Halbreich.

Rob Barnett

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