The latest volume in a series which is rapidly accumulating critical superlatives. Described by International Piano as ‘one of the most gifted pianists of his generation’, Mark Viner is steadily gaining a reputation as one of Britain’s leading concert pianists; his unique blend of individual artistry combined with his bold exploration of the byways of the piano literature garnering international renown.
Having set down dazzling accounts of the knuckle-breaking studies and solo Concerto, Mark Viner here shows his ability to distil the spirit of Alkan’s more intimate and spiritual works. Liszt is reputed to have said that Alkan was the only pianist before whom he felt ill at ease to perform, so daunting was Alkan’s technique. However, Alkan was a serious scholar of Jewish learning and ancient biblical texts, a preoccupation, not a pastime, that took precedence for him over music and the piano.
The atmosphere and design of this Op.72 cycle (completed in 1867) harkens back to the grave passion instilled in the earlier 25 Préludes, op.31 (1847 - PCL10189). Several of the pieces venture beyond evocations of devotion to present psychologically probing dialogues of conflict and reconciliation. From the Revivalist sturdiness of the cycle’s opening number through the inward contemplation of no.2 to the austere fugue of no.3 and beyond, Alkan continues to spring surprises on the listener, including sudden harmonic clashes which abruptly break the tonal fabric and anticipate 20th-century trends of modernism.
To the Op.72 cycle, Mark Viner adds a rarely heard Etude which Alkan originally composed for a pianistic encyclopedia compiled by his former professor. He concludes with the Etude Alla-Barbaro which was rediscovered as recently as 1996: it remains utterly arresting, unique and decades ahead of its time.
In his authoritative booklet essay, Viner introduces every piece on the album in detail.
‘The Preludes emerge with a pristine beauty that reinforces our appreciation of the range of Alkan’s genius.’ – Fanfare (Preludes op.31, PCL10189)
‘Viner’s playing certainly dazzled me, and that’s enough for me to recommend this release to anyone who thrills to piano music and pianism in the grand Romantic tradition.’ – Fanfare (Etudes op.35, PCL10127)
‘Over the past five or six years, Mark Viner has emerged as one of the most compelling interpreters of the virtuoso Romantic repertoire… and his detailed programme booklet would be worth the price of the disc on its own. Enthusiastically recommended.’ – Fanfare (Grande Sonate etc, PCL10209)