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Alkan Preludes Op. 31 1ere Suite

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by felipesarro, Aug 10, 2008.

  1. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    This is the first book of Alkan preludes (in all 24 tonalities).

    No. 1 Lentement
    No. 2 Assez lentement
    No. 3 Dans le genre ancien
    No. 4 Priere du soir
    No. 5 Psaume 150me
    No. 6 Ancienne melodie de la synagogue
    No. 7 Librement mais sans secousses
    No. 8 La chanson de la folle au bord de la mer
    No. 9 Placiditas


    I had not enjoyed very much these preludes before intending to record them, but now I think I love them hehe.
    No. 3 is my favorite from this set, though no. 8 (Song of the mad woman by the seashore) is the most famous one. It has a "cluster-like" accompaniment (It's interesting to notice that that the first piano cluster was probably written by Alkan, in his Introduction et Impromptu, never recorded).

    No. 7 is also one of my favorites, but unfortunately I can't play it any better. It was making my arms hurt, and I was afraid of harming them (like having some kind of tendinite). I never had this problem, even in chordal and octave-full pieces, like Liszt's Hung Rhap no. 6. but this short piece seems to be worse, because it gives almost no time to let the arms take a rest.

    Hope you enjoy!


    Alkan - Prelude Op. 31, No. 1
    Alkan - Prelude Op. 31, No. 2
    Alkan - Prelude Op. 31, No. 3
    Alkan - Prelude Op. 31, No. 4
    Alkan - Prelude Op. 31, No. 5
    Alkan - Prelude Op. 31, No. 6
    Alkan - Prelude Op. 31, No. 7
    Alkan - Prelude Op. 31, No. 8
    Alkan - Prelude Op. 31, No. 9
     
  2. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Ok Felipe, these are up. Please check all links.

    I always thought Alkan's music was impossible to play and so I never considered even listening to it. But these are nice and not all of them seem to be difficult. The first two preludes have a sort of Spanish flair to them. No. 3 reminds me of a hymn. I liked 4, 6, and 9. Yes- 7 does indeed sound hard but even with a few slips I think you pulled it off fine. Nice job - all sensitively played.

    btw - if you have information about these preludes, I'd like to add it to the page. A short paragraph would be nice.
     
  3. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    There's much bad information about Alkan. :wink:
    In fact, his music is not that difficult. Most of his music are within the limits of any "normal" virtuoso. Ravel's Scarbo, Brahms' Paganini Variations and Rachmaninov's 3rd Concerto are more difficult than, let's say, 95% of Alkan's music. And I'm talking about some of his Op. 39 etudes, like Scherzo Diabolico and Le Festin d'Esope.

    I decided to record the preludes because most of them are easy. The only two difficult ones are the Fugue (no. 10) and the Etude de Velocité (no. 24), but both are 10 times easier than Chopin's Op. 10 no. 4 or Op. 25 no. 11. (I have already recorded the fugue, though I'm afraid of no. 24, hehehe).

    Many people do not find beauty in Alkan's music because they get too scared with the "orchestral" effect his most famous pieces bring to the piano. And the other people pay attention only to its virtuosism.
    But the fact is that his music is very attracting, passionate, highly imaginative, extremely well-crafted, sometimes innovative in harmony (his Les Soupirs sound like Debussy, but Debussy was only 2 years old when Les Soupirs was published).

    I myself do not like Hamelin's performances, for the lack of sensitivity, lack of colour and excitement. Lack of polyphony also.
    If someone is interested in listening to Alkan's Concerto for solo piano, I'd recommend the recent live recording by Stephen Lindgren.
    Stephany McCallum is a very good player also (I recommend anything with her, except her complete Op. 39 set).
    There is an interesting recording of Alkan's Symphony and excellent recording of several miniatures by Allan Weiss in Brilliant Classics, and in Naxos and Marco Polo we have very good performances by Ringeissen and Laurent Martin. Ringeissen's Op. 35 is wonderful (though his Allegro Barbaro is too slow). I like Ringeissen, with exception to his Sonatine and his Op. 39 Symphoney, which are bad.

    And... of course... anything by Ronald Smith is nothing less than good.
    Lewenthal's performances are kinda cold, though highly athletic.

    I'm still studying these preludes, so I do not have enough information to write something. I have recorded 16 of them in total (so I still have to study and record 9 more).
    But when I finish, I promise I'll write something.
    It's important to contextualize Alkan's preludes with Chopin's and Bach's equivalent renditions.
    (Chopin was Alkan's closer friend. He was his neighbour. And when Chopin died, he left all his pupils to Alkan. Probably Alkan was the best pianist of his time. Liszt had enormous respect for him, and he was afraid to play if Alkan was in the audience.)
     
  4. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Not only did Chopin leave his pupils to Alkan, but he also bequeathed his method book to him, the one he never finished. At least I think so, I'll have look that up. And yes, I recently read that about Liszt and Alkan. Liszt said that Alkan was the one pianist whom he would not dare compete against.

    Thanks for all the info, Felipe.
     
  5. robert

    robert Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    These were all new to me and I am also happy that you provided so much information along with your recordings. Alkan is most famous for the difficulties in his etudes and that is also as I know his music. Almost unplayable.
    But I agree when listening to your preludes that they definitely sound playable and some rather easy. Rather surprising but more interesting is the musical content which has very fine qualities which I believe you bring out well!
    The mystic no.8 is wonderful and was the one which caught most of my attention with its hauntingly beautiful melody and theme.
     
  6. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    My favourite ones (from this selection) are: Nos.2-5-6. No.2 is particularly well played. Unfortunately, the recording seems to be not so good because of the awfully rumbling basses. Especially No.8 suffered a lot from it.

    As to your playing, thumbs up. But since we are in Nitpicking Room (former Audition Room) I have to focus on the flaws. :lol: They gather in No.5: in bars 11-12-13 (third beat of each measure) you change the rhythm and oddily accent the octave A, which should be played as a sort of acciaccatura, since you have to keep the beat with the LH on F#. Secondly, in the B section you play the big chord triplets at a faster tempo (about one third faster).

    Then, in No.7 you play the last chord groups accenting the upbeat third chord of each group, badly botching the quite novel effect. This might be a conscious choice of you, but, I must tell you, I don't like it at all. :lol:

    I'm looking forward to listening to the remaining preludes!
     
  7. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    Thanks, Alfonso, for your comments.

    I do not consider this a 'change' of rhythm at all. It sounds subtle, and is a kind of 'expressiveness', to make those last notes of the melody more 'intense'.
    But the accent at the octave A is a lack of control, no doubt. :oops:

    I did it consciously. That section is too repetitive. If I play it at the right tempo, the piece that once started so exuberantly becomes a boring stuff.
    That's my opinion, of course.
    But I like the first and third section of this piece so nice that I did not want to loose the listener's attention in the middle section.

    It's a conscious choice, but I could have played it less accented.

    You can't imagine how afraid I am to record prelude no. 24.
    hehehehe
     
  8. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    That's why it is the most famous Alkan prelude. :)
     
  9. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Very enterprising to do a complete set of Alkan Preludes ! That will look great on the site.
    I did not have the time yet to properly listen to these. Based on some random samples I'd say well done but there may be some things to discuss. I will comment in more detail later.

    I can see why you are anxious about that prelude 24. Although it looks like no more than a post-Czerny etude, it may still be a nasty finger twister.

    Yes could be the difficulty of Alkan's work is overrated. Much of it is not complicated, just requires supernatural dexterity and stamina. Though if you consider the fugue from Quasi-Faust (nine voices, as counted by Raymond Lewenthal) that is surely among the most daunting writing in the repertoire.

    Much as I admire Hamelin, I agree his Alkan can be disappointing. I watched his Allegro alla Barbaresca on YouTube and it seemed no more than insensitive pounding and bluster. Having said that, his Alkan recordings are so much lauded by Gramophone that they must be very good indeed.
     
  10. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    Sure!
    But Quasi-faust is among Alkan's REALLY most difficult pieces. hehehe
    But it's so so beautiful... I have already read it :wink:
    I can play the first 5 minutes of it. hehehe
     
  11. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Having in mind Mustonen's rendition, I understand you, but since the main difficulty is the Prestissimo not the Prelude per se, if you don't belong to da SDC and take a less-than-crazy tempo there, nobody will blame you. Alternatively, if you want to see Chris going postal, record the entire Opus 31 but No.24. After all, the correct number for a set of preludes is 24, not 25. By the way, also Cesar Cui wrote a set of 25 Preludes, linking them up by an interesting relationship of thirds.
     
  12. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    You're crazy! :lol:
    Of course I am going to record no. 24. hehehe
    Otherwise it would not be "preludes in ALL KEYS". hehe
    The 25th prelude is a CODA in C, the same key of the first prelude.

    No. 24 is not THAT difficult. It only needs too much practice time.
    And Mustonen plays that slower than Laurent Martin. :wink:
    Of course I will play slower than both, hehe.

    But thanks for the suggestion anyway. :wink:
     
  13. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Nope, I just forgot the smilies.

    I know the structure of Opus 31, but the tonalities are all mixed up (a bit like in Rachmaninoff's 1+13+10=24 Preludes), so nobody would care about C major coming back at the end. :p

    I don't know Martin's performance... :(
     
  14. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    If you pull that trick on me, I'll generate you a coloured CS table with the header saying 'Complete recording except for the no.24 which was too much trouble'. Get my own back :lol:

    Actually I see that a number of these preludes do double duty as organ pieces. Maybe I'll try out some. Not the no.24 though - too much trouble :wink:
     
  15. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    That would be very very nice.
    Though my recordings of the preludes may be considered the THIRD complete set... (after Martin and Mustonen) your recordings on organ would be THE FIRST ONES.

    as you may know, Alkan wrote these preludes for three instruments:

    - organ
    - piano
    - pedal-piano

    that's why no. 5 seems to need 3 hands... one of them would be played by the pedal.
    most people says these preludes must sound odd in organ... but some of them probably not.
     
  16. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes, I too noticed that. Some of them look even more idiomatically written for organ (or, why not, harmonium).
     
  17. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    That's talking BS because as you say they have not been recorded on organ yet !

    They will probably sound no more odd on organ than on piano.
    I am however not sure I'd be able to find suitable registrations - I guess a French romantic disposition would be required here rather than the baroque-inspired organs I favour.
     
  18. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    No, it's not.
    I has a logical but uncommon sequence of keys.
    I can explain it when I write a paragraph about them for the site :wink:
     
  19. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I can clearly see it in the first book, but I cannot see any consistent pattern in the other 2 books. I'll wait for your completion of the set, then.

    By the way, in my edition No.8 has 6 flats in the key signature, but they should be 7, since the piece is in A flat minor. AFAYK is it an error or Alkan did set the key signature that way? I think it is an error because of the many explicitly notated f's natural along the piece.
     
  20. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    it's probably a mistake.
    the score available at IMSLP have many mistakes, I don't know if you have this one.
    I'm using this edition, but I'm also comparing with the Billaudot.

    the order of the preludes are wrong in IMSLP also. so it makes no sense, and is not according to the two available recordings, which follow Billaudot edition.

    In fact, the whole complete set has the same logical key progression. The division of Books make no sense. it seems to be merely arbitrary. we could desconsider the books and face it as a whole. the progression is the same.

    PS: I said the division of books makes no sense, but this is not so true. in the first book, the first (Lentement) and last (Placiditas) preludes have the same musical idea, which is: a melody with repetitive top notes. so Placiditas is a kind of reminiscence of the first prelude.
     

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