Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Charles-Valentin Alkan

Dr. Bob Prescribes Charles-Valentin Alkan

Yesterday’s Music History Monday post acknowledged the anniversary of the birth of Charles-Valentin Alkan on November 30, 1813. A contemporary (and friend) of both Chopin and Liszt, Alkan was – in his lifetime – considered their equal as a pianist and by those (few) who knew his mature music, their near-equal as a composer. Like Chopin, Alkan’s compositional output consists almost entirely of solo piano music. (Alkan did indeed complete a “piano concerto” and a “symphony”, though both are “scored” for solo piano!) However, unlike Chopin and Liszt, Alkan’s music fell into obscurity in the mid-nineteenth century – during Alkan’s lifetime – not to be resurrected until the 1960s. Let’s hear it for resurrections: it is wonderful music! Alkan died in Paris on March 29, 1888, by which time he was already considered an enigma. In 1877, eleven years before Alkan’s death, Antoine Marmontel – the head of the piano department at the Paris Conservatoire – wrote of the then 64-year-old Alkan: “If there were a strange, eccentric artistic personality to study it must surely be that of Ch-V Alkan, in whom interest is quickened by a screen of mystery and enigma which surrounds him.” Alkan’s “eccentricities” came to dominate […]

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Music History Monday: What a Way to Go

9-11; a somber day for us all. A day for reflection, contemplation and yes, a day to grieve. Far more often than not, this post is about celebration: celebrating the life of a musician or some great (or small) event in music history. If we chose to, we could celebrate the lives and music of two wonderful composers today. The great French composer and harpsichordist François Couperin died in Paris, at the age of 65, 284 years ago today, on September 11, 1733. The wonderful Estonian-born composer Arvo Pärt was born 82 years ago today, on September 11, 1935. However, I’ve chosen, today, not to celebrate but rather, to observe some particular deaths: stupid deaths, unnecessary and premature deaths. A grim topic but not an uninteresting one, given that death is one of the very few things each of us will eventually have in common. The cue for today’s post was the birth, 104 years ago today, of Betty Stone in Norwich, Connecticut. Ms. Stone was an alto and a member of the chorus of the Metropolitan Opera. We read from an article that appeared on page 44 of the New York Times on May 2, 1977: “CLEVELAND, May 1—A […]

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