Piano Trio in g minor, Op.30
Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888) was born in Paris and entered the conservatory there at the age of 7. He was a child prodigy on both the violin and the piano. During his lifetime, he was regarded as the equal of Liszt as a piano virtuoso. Liszt himself said Alkan had the best technique of any pianist he knew. For the last 40 years of his life, Alkan became a recluse and gave up his concert career, but kept on composing, although his music did not receive the attention it deserved until the 20th century. Several critics have now written that Alkan, along with Liszt, Chopin, Schumann and Brahms was one of the five greatest composers for the piano since Beethoven. It is said he was one of the truest of Beethovenís heirs in terms of his structural handling of rhythm.
Hummel, Cherubini, Chopin, Bach and above all Beethoven influenced Alkan's music. Although a great piano virtuoso whose output was mostly for the piano, Alkan, who began as a violinist, knew how to write for strings. His Piano Trio was published in 1841. The first movement, Assez largement, begins with a very dramatic and powerful--almost violent--fashion. The lovely, lyrical second theme could not be more different. The Scherzo, which comes next, begins softly but is punctuated by strong rhythmic interruptions. The finely contrasting trio features a lovely cantabile duet between the violin and cello. The slow movement, Lentement, is quite unusual. It begins with a lengthy section, played by the strings alone. The first theme is a beautiful, but very somber melody. Next comes an equally long piano cadenza. It is only in the second half of the movement that all three voices are united. The finale, Vite, with its powerfully rhythmic theme, which is played against the constant moto perpetuo scale passages in the piano, makes a strong impression and could easily serve as an encore.
Wilhelm Altmann, in his Handbook for Piano Trio Players, writes that this work, with its many beauties and uniqueness, is sure to win friends. The trio was only published once, without rehearsal letters. Although it has been reprinted on occasion--though not recently--no one has thought to do this. Our reprint, has added rehearsal letters and corrected a few mistakes. It should be welcomed by professionals and amateurs alike.