Alkan (real name Morhange), Charles Henri-Valentin

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ALKAN (real name Morhange ), CHARLES HENRI-VALENTIN (1813–1888), French pianist and composer. The son of a school director, Alkan, a child prodigy, became a concert pianist but retired in 1839. He spent the rest of his life almost in seclusion, teaching, composing, and studying literature, especially the Talmud. Alkan wrote almost exclusively for the piano. His music fell into neglect, perhaps because of its tremendous technical difficulties, but in recent years concert pianists have rediscovered him. Alkan liked the grotesque and the macabre, and his melody is somewhat dry and unexpressive. Searching for orchestral sound on the piano, he achieved interesting effects of color and harmony through surprisingly modern-sounding chords by adding foreign tones and by unusual pedal effects. His brother napoleon (1826–1888) was also a pianist and composed some salon pieces.


Grove, Diet, and Supplement; Riemann-Gurlitt, Sendrey, Music, no. 4569.

[Claude Abravanel]