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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Charles-Valentin Alkan - Grande Sonate; Trois Morceaux dans le genre pathétique (Mark Viner)


Composer: Charles-Valentin Alkan
  • (01) Grande sonate, Op. 33
  • (05) 3 Morceaux dans le genre pathétique, Op. 15

Mark Viner, piano
Date: 2020
Label: Piano Classics



British pianist Mark Viner continues his Alkan project at Piano Classics with a new recording of the massive Grande Sonata (Les quatre âges) op. 33 and the 3 Morceaux dans le genre pathétique by Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888).

Alkan composed the sonata The Four Ages of Life in Paris in 1844. The sonata, which is about 37 minutes long, describes one age in each of the four movements, and accordingly each movement is slower than the preceding one.

Charles Viner successfully uses these programmatic indications and gets true inspiration from the composer’s ideas. The first movement describes a twenty-year-old man. Viner’s playing is very fluent, light and alert, without any rush. The second movement (30 years) is the longest of the sonata and contains a representation of the Faustian (quasi-Faust), with Marguerite and the Devil also musically portrayed. Viner does it without bombast and pathos.

The third movement (40 years) bears the subtitle Un heureux Ménage (A Happy Household). Viner’s playing is very sensitive and finely nuanced.

The last movement (50 years) is marked ‘Very Slow’ and subtitled Prométhée enchaîné (Bound Prometheus). Here, as in the whole sonata, Viner plays rather moderately and ends the sonata very stylishly, proving that Alkan does not need thunder and bombast.

The three Morceaux are independent tone poems. The first is about a love poem, the second about the howling winter wind, and the third, Morte, about a cemetery. When other performers like to overdo Alkan, Mark Viner shows in his stylish playing that neither the play of the wind nor the funeral march of the last movement need be exaggerated.

According to the motto less is more, he succeeds with outstanding interpretations.

-- Remy Franck, Pizzicato


Charles-Valentin Alkan (30 November 1813 – 29 March 1888) was a French composer and pianist. At the height of his fame in the 1830s and 1840s he was, alongside his friends and colleagues Chopin and Liszt, among the leading pianists in Paris, where he spent virtually his entire life. His music requires extreme technical virtuosity, reflecting his own abilities. Busoni ranked Alkan with Liszt, Chopin, Schumann and Brahms as one of the five greatest composers for the piano since Beethoven. For much of the 20th century, Alkan's work remained in obscurity, but from the 1960s onwards it was steadily revived.


Mark Viner, born in 1989, is recognised as one of the most exciting British concert pianists of his generation and is becoming increasingly well-known for his bold championing of unfamiliar pianistic terrain. Viner studied at the Purcell School of Music with Tessa Nicholson, then at the Royal College of Music with Niel Immelman, graduating with a distinction in 2013. Viner won 1st prize at the Alkan-Zimmerman International Piano Competition in Athens, Greece in 2012. He is very active in the recording studio and his recordings on the Piano Classics label have garnered critical acclaim.


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