ALKAN Chanson de la folle au bord de la mer
Vol 4 of Vincenzo Maltempo’s Alkan consists of works which he considers better suited to his 1899 Erard instrument than to a modern piano. And in this he adds a special dimension of timbre and colour to music’s ultimate bogeyman, previously celebrated on record by Ronald Smith and most notably by Marc-André Hamelin, together with invaluable encounters by Olli Mustonen and Steven Osborne.
Maltempo is once again every inch the virtuoso, brimming over with zest even when Alkan’s demands are sufficiently ferocious to cause him momentary strain in the monstrous Marche triomphale (only Hamelin could throw off its massive octave challenge with sufficient nonchalance and aplomb). Elsewhere there is much to wonder at in Maltempo’s playing of the Trois petites fantaisies (with typical Alkan perversity more outsize than petite): crisp and assertive in No 1, furiously paced in the frantically skipping No 2 and madcap Tom-and-Jerry chase of No 3. And whether in the Capriccio alla soldatesca, where the soldiers tramp and trumpet their way into battle, in the baleful Chanson de la folle au bord de la mer or in Alkan’s periodic retreats into a reclusive, hymnal piety, Maltempo is brilliantly attuned to an outsider, bleak and uncompromising beneath his surface extravagance. Piano Classics’ sound is excellent and Maltempo proves himself a true champion of the near impossible.