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Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-88)

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Alkan - Concerto for Solo Piano

Alkan - Concerto for Solo Piano


Alkan:

Concerto for Solo Piano Op. 39

Alkan’s Concerto for solo piano is one of the great pianistic high-wire acts—an epic work which demands unprecedented levels of technical ability and physical stamina. It is conceived on a breathtakingly grand scale and is rich with both orchestral sonorities and lyrical pianistic passages.

Troisième recueil de chants, Op. 65

The Troisième recueil de chants is a delightful rarity, rescued here from oblivion by the wonderful Marc-André Hamelin, who with his transcendent technique is simply one of the greatest living performers of this intoxicating music.


“The sheer keyboard brilliance of Hamelin’s playing is exceptional. The breathtaking clarity with which he articulates even the most ferocious passages, while unerringly projecting melodic shapes that are often obscured under welters of notes, never fails to dazzle, and the way in which he sustains the huge first movement of the Concerto so that each discursive paragraph seems a natural consequence of what precedes it is a triumph of pure musical will” The Guardian *****

“Hamelin’s playing here is as breathtaking as ever—it is hard to believe that a lot of it is humanly possible—but, more than simply a dazzling panoply of notes, it conveys a deep musical and expressive range” The Telegraph

“A performance of the Concerto of such brilliance and lucidity that one can only listen in awe and amazement. Scaling even the most ferocious hurdles with yards to spare, he is blessedly free to explore the very heart of Alkan’s bewildering interplay of austerity and monstrous elaboration … You can only marvel at such a unique mix of blazing if nonchalantly deployed virtuosity and poetic conviction … All of this is superly recorded and presented, prompting some not unreasonable conjecture: if Liszt feared Alkan’s mastery as a pianist he may well have feared Hamelin’s” Gramophone Magazine

“If you are yet to be convinced by Valentin Alkan's music, this intelligent and magnificently played programme, displaying contrasting sides of the composer's personality, is for you. As for the performance, if anyone can play it better, expect to see the devil as their agent. It is not simply that Hamelin can negotiate the ferocious technical challenges. Like a great ballet dancer, he maintains a clarity and beauty of line, so that the shape of the music is always clear and seems natural, however unnatural the demands made by Alkan. ...this is playing of the highest order in music that should be at the heart of the Romantic repertoire.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2007 *****

“This is Marc-André Hamelin's second recording of the Alkan Concerto for Solo Piano (the first for Music & Arts dates from 1992) and he now trumps his previous ace with a performance of the Concerto of such brilliance and lucidity that one can only listen in awe and amazement.
Scaling even the most ferocious hurdles with yards to spare, he is blessedly free to explore the very heart of Alkan's bewildering interplay of austerity and monstrous elaboration. In the gigantic first movement you can hear avalanches of notes given with the rarest focus and trenchancy.
And whether you turn to the finale's helter-skelter pages (with their curious Eastern underpinnings) or the baleful central Adagio, you can only marvel at such a unique mix of blazing if nonchalantly deployed virtuosity and poetic conviction.
For his substantial encore Hamelin gives us Alkan's Troisième recueil de chants where outward convention vies with that sinister and pervasive oddity so central to this composer's nature. No 3 is a near bitonal canon, No 4 a polonaise with memories of the Etudes from which the Concerto is drawn and a crazy, race-away coda, while the concluding Barcarolle contains ironic echoes of Liszt's Au lac de Wallenstadt.
All this is superbly recorded and presented, prompting some not unreasonable conjecture: if Liszt feared Alkan's mastery as a pianist he may well have feared Hamelin's.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Awards 2008

Finalist - Instrumental

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - Awards Issue 2007

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - September 2007

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Alkan: Esquisses (48), Op. 63

Alkan: Esquisses (48), Op. 63


‘A sensitivity, radiance and finesse rarely encountered from even the finest pianists … an invaluable disc’ (Gramophone)

“Here's a superlative record of music to confound the sceptics, including the soloist himself, who, in a witty, concentrated essay, expresses his surprise at discovering Alkan's Esquisses and their journey into intimacy rather than gargantuan bravura. Not that these 48 fragments, many of them of a teasing and enigmatic brevity, could be by any other composer. Gnomic, introspective, full of odd twists and turns of phrase and expression, they invariably catch you unawares.
In 'Confidence', a Field-like innocence is countered by enough surprises to declare the composer's identity. 'Les soupirs' is so much more than a foretaste of Debussyan impressionism.
'Inflexibilité' holds the listener in a vicelike grip and the change from charm ('Petite marche villageoise') to grimness ('Morituri te salutant') is typical of Alkan's volatile yet rigorous command of the widest variety of ideas and pastiches. 'Le frisson', 'Pseudo-naïveté', 'Délire', 'Fais Dodo', 'L'homme aux sabots' – the titles predict an eccentricity that's nonetheless qualified by a formidable intellectual focus.
Osborne's performances are of a sensitivity, radiance and finesse rarely encountered from even the finest pianists. He floats the opening of 'La vision' in a magical haze or nimbus of sound, peppers the keyboard with an immaculate virtuosity in 'La staccatissimo', relishes the Norwegien tang of 'Début de quatuor' and brings a wicked frisson to 'Les diablotins', where Alkan's little devils are hustled from the field almost as if the composer had lost patience with his own grotesque creation.
Misha Donat's notes are as affectionate as they are perceptive, and Hyperion's sound is of demonstration quality. An invaluable disc, particularly for those drawn to music's byways.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - September 2003

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Alkan - Symphony for solo piano

Alkan - Symphony for solo piano


Alkan:

Symphony (from Twelve Études in the Minor Keys), Op. 39 No. 4 - 7

Alleluia, Op. 25

Trois Morceaux dans la Genre Pathétique, Op. 15

Salut, Cendre du Pauvre!, Op. 45

Super flumina Babylonis - Paraphrase, Op. 52


“Marc-André Hamelin puts us further in his debt with another superbly played disc of Alkan … [the Symphony’s] big-boned, exorbitantly taxing writing draws appropriately stunning pianism from Hamelin” BBC Music Magazine, September 2007

“Hamelin makes light of their many difficulties. Superb playing and very good recording - and noteworthy not only for its virtuosity but for its refined music-making.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

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Chopin & Alkan - Cello Sonatas

Chopin & Alkan - Cello Sonatas


Alkan:

Cello Sonata, Op. 47

Chopin:

Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65


Alban Gerhardt (cello) & Steven Osborne (piano)

This recording of two great Romantic cello sonatas features the mercurial duo of cellist Alban Gerhardt and pianist Steven Osborne, both musicians of dazzling technical and interpretative abilities. Gerhardt is known for his passionate commitment to lesser-known nineteenth-century repertoire through his coruscating performances in Hyperion’s Romantic Cello Concerto series, and in this chamber disc he reaches an even higher level of thrilling intensity.

There are relatively few nineteenth-century cello sonatas. Even fewer have managed steadfastly to maintain a place in the current concert repertoire. Alkan’s splendid Sonata is a little-known work, but an immediately attractive one: ambitious, original, and replete with good tunes. Chopin’s Op 65 Sonata is a dense, complex work which baffled his contemporaries: it is revealed in this performance as a sophisticated example of two-part counterpoint, in which neither player consistently holds the centre-stage, and in which the interchange of voices is ever unpredictable.

Both works were written for the great French cellist Auguste-Joseph Franchomme who gave their premieres, with the composer at the piano in each case, in 1848 and 1857 respectively.

“Both performances from this outstanding partnership are out of the top drawer, fresh, spontaneous and beautifully recorded.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2008

“Alkan's Sonata has been recorded several times before, yet it has remained obstinately in the wings of the cello repertoire. This new version must surely drag it centre-stage. It is a masterpiece: meaty, melodic and, as with most of Alkan's music, extremely demanding to play – Mendelssohn with balls. The Allegretto second movement with its sly, pungent harmonies and the mystical, almost impressionistic slow movement especially are further proof, if it were needed, of Alkan's genius.
Chopin's Cello Sonata, his final major work and the last published in his lifetime, has never lacked champions, despite the notorious problems of balance in the first movement. Here the musical line is focused and unambiguous, though the da capo repeat turns what is by far the longest movement (usually about 10 minutes) into one approaching 15, making it quite disproportionate to the scale of the other three.
However, it offers the chance to hear twice the heart-catching little motif at 2 mins 42 secs which has rarely been played so affectingly. Both performances from this outstanding partnership are out of the top drawer, fresh, spontaneous and beautifully recorded.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“The Chopin sonata is everything that Alkan's isn't: dark, searching and puzzling; Alkan, on the other hand, produced an immediately accessible though technically demanding piece...Alban Gerhardt and Steven Osborne rise to the challenge with ease, giving us a real sense of Alkan's character while dispatching the more familiar Chopin with aplomb.” The Guardian, 12th October 2008

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Hamelin plays Alkan

Hamelin plays Alkan


Alkan:

Grande Sonate 'Les Quatre Ages', Op. 33

Sonatine, Op. 61

Le Festin D'Esope Op. 39 No. 12

Barcarolle, Op. 65 No. 6


“Hamelin's power and conviction turn the Grand Sonata on the Four Ages of Man into a statement of inspired profundity.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2007

“Breathtaking virtuosity, outshining all rivals” The Guardian

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Organ Dreams 1

Organ Dreams 1


Alkan:

Prière in E major Op. 64 No. 11

Ball, Ernest:

Elegy

Batiste, Antoine:

Offertoire in G major

Beethoven:

Adagio in F major WoO 33 No. 1

Benedict:

March of the Templars Op. 56 (arr. W T Best)

Davies, Walford:

Solemn Melody, for organ

Elgar:

Softly and gently, dearly-ransomed soul 'Angel's Farewell' (from The Dream of Gerontius)

Franck, C:

Choral No. 1 in E major, M. 38

Langlais:

Thème et Variations (No 7 of Hommage à Frescobaldi Op. 70)

Lloyd Webber, W:

Prelude (No 1 of Three Recital Pieces)

Spark:

Jerusalem the Golden

('A favourite Hymn Tune with Variations and Finale')

Spicer:

Dreams of Derry


Christopher Herrick (organ of the Temple Church, London)

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Organ Dreams 4

Organ Dreams 4


Alkan:

Prière (No 5 of Treize pièces Op. 64)

Duruflé:

Sicilienne (from Suite, Op. 5)

Franck, C:

Prélude, Fugue et Variation Op. 18

Grace:

Reverie: ‘The God of love my Shepherd is'

Guilmant:

Chorale: Was Gott thut das ist wohlgethan, Op. 93 No. 1

Liszt:

Prelude after Bach's cantata 'Weinen Klagen Sorgen Zagen', S179

Sumsion:

Air, Berceuse and Procession

Wesley, S S:

Andante in E flat major

Widor:

Marche du veilleur de nuit ('Wachet auf!')


Christopher Herrick (organ of St Nikolai, Halmstad, Sweden)

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Stephen Hough's French Album

Stephen Hough's French Album


Alkan:

La chanson de la folle au bord de la mer, Op.31 no.8

Bach, J S:

Toccata & Fugue in D minor, BWV565

arr. Alfred Cortot & Stephen Hough

Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F minor, BWV1056: arioso

arr. Alfred Cortot

Chabrier:

Pièces pittoresques (10): No. 2, Mélancolie

Chaminade:

Automne, Op. 35 No. 2

Debussy:

Clair de Lune (from Suite Bergamasque)

Delibes:

Sylvia - Pizzicato

arr. Stephen Hough

Fauré:

Nocturne No. 6 in D flat major, Op. 63

Improvisation in C sharp minor, Op. 84 No. 5

Impromptu No. 5 in F sharp minor Op. 102

Barcarolle No. 5 in F sharp minor Op. 66

Liszt:

Réminiscences de La juive - Fantaisie brillante S409a

Massenet:

Crépuscule

arr. Stephen Hough

Poulenc:

Mélancolie

Nocturne No. 4 in C minor 'Bal fantôme'

15 Improvisations, No. 8 in A minor

Ravel:

Alborada del gracioso (Miroirs No. 4)


Exquis! Stephen Hough presents an enchanting programme of French music, played with the filigree perfection and total command of the music’s expressive world that make him one of the most admired pianists of today. In typical Houghian style this recital is full of surprises and lesser-known gems from the repertoire, as well as works by the masters Fauré, Ravel, Debussy and Poulenc. A particular delight is Hough’s own arrangement of the Massenet song Crépuscule, a ravishing exercise in creative yet faithful transcription. This release is both a tribute to the lyric genius which flowered in nineteenth- and twentieth-century France, and a glimpse into the musical mind of a great pianist.

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

“His latest album recital is among the most enjoyable. “A sort of musical dessert trolley,” he calls it — a trolley where you want to eat everything in sight...The Fauré selections best display Hough’s connoisseur’s touch...The lighter French spirit surfaces in Hough’s own arrangements of Délibes and Massenet, delivered with delicious wit and grace.” The Times, 31st August 2012 ****

“it's a superlative performance [of Alborada del gracioso] by any standards, including repeated notes that turn me green with envy.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2012 ***

“personal touches make Hough the artist he is, but I can imagine some musical Francophiles balking at his free interpretation of Fauré’s D flat Nocturne, and more so at his eccentric Debussy (Clair de lune). Yet there are compensations aplenty: Ravel’s Alborada del gracioso and Fauré’s F sharp minor Impromptu are glitteringly played.” Sunday Times, 2nd September 2012

“a substantial feast of of masterly pianism...Hough can be too coolly objective at times but in this repertoire, perhaps paradoxically, the expressive simplicity of his playing can make your eyes burn. In Clair de lune and Chaminade's once ubiquitous Automne, now rarely heard, Hough conjures up a heart-catching melancholy that put me in mind of Cherkassy. I can't offer higher praise.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2012

“[Hough’s] one of those keyboard polymaths who’s at home in whatever music he chooses to play, invariably casting new light on the familiar in the process. And the better-known items here do delight...But you’ll want this for the rarities...playing and recording are beyond reproach.” The Arts Desk, 6th October 2012

“what struck me on first hearing was the consistent clarity of his approach. In lesser hands a programme like this could so easily dissipate into a series of soft-focus washes of sound, but even in the most familiar pieces I found myself becoming aware of countermelodies and overarching phrases which had never before caught my attention.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 3rd September 2012

Presto Disc of the Week

3rd September 2012

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - Awards Issue 2012

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The Romantic Piano Concerto 7 - Alkan and Henselt

The Romantic Piano Concerto 7 - Alkan and Henselt


Alkan:

Concerto da Camera in C sharp minor Op. 10 No. 2

Concerto da Camera in A minor Op. 10 No. 1

Henselt:

Piano Concerto in F minor Op. 16

Variations de Concert, Op. 11, on 'Quand je quittai la Normandie' from Meyerbeer's 'Robert le Diable'


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