ALKAN Concerto for Solo Piano. Comme le vent
For Vincenzo Maltempo there are few reservations regarding Alkan’s genius. He admits that Alkan’s works, which range from the epic and monstrous to the miniature, provoke both hate and love, but goes on to refer to the Concerto for solo piano as ‘one of the peaks of the piano literature of all time’.
In the last in a series of Alkan recitals, his playing flashes with summer lightning and a freer, more expressive romantic leeway than either Ronald Smith (who he praises en passant – EMI, 1/70) and Marc-André Hamelin (who he oddly ignores – Hyperion, A/07). His reflexes are nervy and rapid, and he dispatches every outlandish difficulty with an astonishing ease and fleetness. Alkan’s cruel demand for strict tempo is replaced by something more impulsive and his silvery-toned Yamaha allows him feats of virtuosity unknown to lesser mortals, intimidated by the composer’s hermetic world, that of a true misanthrope. ‘Comme le vent’ is reeled off like so much child’s play but in ‘En rythme molossique’, Maltempo’s measured tempo is totally in keeping with its pungent and insistent rhythm. Goethe may have believed that small is beautiful but for Alkan the reverse is true (despite his miniatures) – an in some ways sardonic curse suggested by Maltempo’s dazzling and idiosyncratic performances, finely recorded and presented by Piano Classics.