ALKAN Vianna da Motta Transcriptions
I have yet to come across a masterpiece for the pedal piano (Schumann’s Op 56 being an arguable exception) but there are plenty of entertaining and fascinating works that merit the occasional hearing. Here are more – but here transcribed for solo piano by the Portuguese Liszt pupil José Vianna da Motta (1868-1948), a labour of deep love by this early champion of Alkan. All are premiere recordings.
What strange, quirky and unpredictable things are contained in the Huit Prières taken from Alkan’s 13 Prières, Op 64, for organ or pedal piano. No 3, for example, is the only piece of piano music I’ve encountered written on three staves all in the bass clef; No 5 (Alkan’s No 8) is not a prayer at all but a contrapuntal march, made obstreperously obsessive by this close recording in a small acoustic. In the Nine Preludes arranged for piano duet from Alkan’s 11 Grand Préludes, Op 66, and the Benedictus, Op 54, arranged for two pianos, Maltempo is joined by Emanuele Delucchi.
Throughout there is much to savour and admire – music and performances – on a disc that lasts an incredible 83'30". The essay by the late Malcolm MacDonald is worth the price of the disc alone. Maltempo is wonderfully well attuned to Alkan’s unique voice and I’m grateful for the opportunity to hear these transcriptions, though there is no need for any further recordings of them. The fact is that they sound far more effective in their original form – as demonstrated by Kevin Bowyer, who plays all 13 Prières on the organ of Salisbury Cathedral, as well as the Benedictus and the complete Op 66 on the same ever-enterprising Toccata Classics label.