Charles-Valentin Alkan (French: [ʃaʁl valɑ̃tɛ̃ alkɑ̃]; 30 November 1813 – 29 March 1888) was a French-Jewish composer and virtuoso pianist. At the height of his fame in the 1830s and 1840s he was, alongside his friends and colleagues Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt, among the leading pianists in Paris, a city in which he spent virtually his entire life.

Alkan earned many awards at the Conservatoire de Paris, which he entered before he was six. His career in the salons and concert halls of Paris was marked by his occasional long withdrawals from public performance, for personal reasons. Although he had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances in the Parisian artistic world, including Eugène Delacroix and George Sand, from 1848 he began to adopt a reclusive life style, while continuing with his compositions – virtually all of which are for the keyboard. During this period he published, among other works, his collections of large-scale studies in all the major keys (Op. 35) and all the minor keys (Op. 39). The latter includes his Symphony for Solo Piano (Op. 39, nos. 4–7) and Concerto for Solo Piano (Op. 39, nos. 8–10), which are often considered among his masterpieces and are of great musical and technical complexity. Alkan emerged from self-imposed retirement in the 1870s to give a series of recitals that were attended by a new generation of French musicians.

Alkan's attachment to his Jewish origins is displayed both in his life and his work. He was the first composer to incorporate Jewish melodies in art music. Fluent in Hebrew and Greek, he devoted much time to a complete new translation of the Bible into French. This work, like many of his musical compositions, is now lost. Alkan never married, but his presumed son Élie-Miriam Delaborde was, like Alkan, a virtuoso performer on both the piano and the pedal piano, and edited a number of the elder composer's works.

Following his death (which according to persistent but unfounded legend was caused by a falling bookcase) Alkan's music became neglected, supported by only a few musicians including Ferruccio Busoni, Egon Petri and Kaikhosru Sorabji. From the late 1960s onwards, led by Raymond Lewenthal and Ronald Smith, many pianists have recorded his music and brought it back into the repertoire.

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Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1988 Music for Organ or Pedal-Piano Charles-Valentin Alkan; Kevin Bowyer 1
1991 Shostakovich: 24 Preludes, op. 34 / Alkan: 25 Preludes, op. 31 Shostakovich, Alkan; Olli Mustonen 1
1992 Esquisses Charles-Valentin Alkan; Laurent Martin 2
1992 Grande sonate, op. 33 "Les quatres âges" / 4 Études, op. 39 / La Chanson de la folle au bord de la mer / Allegro barbaro Alkan; Ronald Smith 1
1993 Sonate de concert et grand duo concertant Charles-Valentin Alkan; Tedi Papavrami, Christoph Henkel, Hüseyin Sermet 1
1994 The Romantic Piano Concerto, Volume 7: Henselt: Piano Concerto, op. 16 / Variations de concert, op. 11 / Alkan: Concerto da camera, op. 10/1 / Concerto da camera, op. 10/2 Charles-Valentin Alkan, Adolf von Henselt; BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins, Marc-André Hamelin 1
1995 Grande Sonate "Les quatre âges" / Sonatine / Le festin d'Ésope Charles-Valentin Alkan; Marc-André Hamelin 5 1
1995 The Railway / Préludes / Études / Esquisses Charles-Valentin Alkan; Laurent Martin, Bernard Ringeissen 1
1995 12 Études, op. 39 Charles-Valentin Alkan; Jack Gibbons 1
1998 Piano Concerto, op. 39 / Concerti da camera nos. 1-3 Charles-Valentin Alkan; Razumovsky Symphony Orchestra, Róbert Stankovský, Dmitry Feofanov 1
2001 Symphony for Solo Piano / Trois morceaux dans le genre pathétique Charles-Valentin Alkan; Marc-André Hamelin 1
2001 Piano Music, Volume 1 Charles-Valentin Alkan; Bernard Ringeissen 1
2001 Alkan / Liszt Charles-Valentin Alkan, Franz Liszt; Emmanuelle Bertrand, Pascal Amoyel 1
2001 Œuvres pour piano Charles-Valentin Alkan; Hüseyin Sermet 1
2003 Esquisses, op. 63 Charles-Valentin Alkan; Steven Osborne 1
2004 Piano Works Charles-Valentin Alkan; Ronald Smith 1
2005 Organ Works, Volume 1 Charles-Valentin Alkan; Kevin Bowyer 1
2007 Concerto for Solo Piano / Troisième recueil de chants Charles-Valentin Alkan; Marc-André Hamelin 5 1
2007 Grande sonate "Les Quatre âges" / Symphonie, for piano solo / Le Festin d'Ésope / Miniatures Alkan; Alan Weiss 1
2008 Cello Sonatas Alkan, Chopin; Alban Gerhardt, Steven Osborne 1
2011 Complete Piano Duos and Duets Charles-Valentin Alkan; Goldstone and Clemmow 1
2014 The Complete Vianna da Motta Transcriptions Charles-Valentin Alkan / José Vianna da Motta; Vincenzo Maltempo, Emanuele Delucchi 1

Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1999 Alkan: Piano Music / Liszt: Héxameron Alkan, Liszt; Raymond Lewenthal 1

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