Chopin and Alkan: Parisian friends and fellow composers

  • The Washington Examiner

Marc-Andre Hamelin, one of the world’s most honored pianists, will delve into the creativity of Frederic Chopin and Charles-Valentin Alkan, the two greatest piano virtuosos and composers of 19th century France. The occasion is Pro Musica Hebraica’s program focusing on the composers’ remarkable accomplishments and friendship. Despite being outsiders in their community, Chopin a Pole and Alkan a Jew, they thrived in the world of music centered in Paris.

“Chopin’s music never disappeared but has been part of our culture since his time,” Hamelin said. “Alkan, however, slipped into obscurity until he was rediscovered by two people during the 1950s and 1960s. Ronald Smith of the U.K. wrote several books about him and established the Alkan Society. In this country, pianist Raymond Lewenthal was regarded as an eccentric for his concert attire and programs of unfamiliar piano pieces, among them works by Alkan. Nevertheless, both men drew attention to music that had disappeared from the repertoire, and together they kick-started renewed interest that came into full flower in the 1980s.

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