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Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest. (Read 17665 times)

Offline learner of liszt

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Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
« on: January 19, 2009, 05:34:12 PM »
I have recently been listening to Jack Gibbons and Hamelin playing the Op. 39 Etudes, and I am considering trying to learn one of them. Can anyone give an opinion on which they think is the most difficult and which they think is the least difficult?
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Sheet music to download and print: Twelve Studies in all the Minor Keys by Alkan



Offline ronde_des_sylphes

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #1 on: January 19, 2009, 11:57:48 PM »
"Easy" is of course a relative concept when dealing with the Alkan op.39 set. I'd say that at the easier end of the scale are nos 2, 3 and 5, and the hardest ones are nos 7, 8, 10 and 12.

Offline learner of liszt

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #2 on: January 21, 2009, 01:07:23 PM »
I do, of course, understand how difficult they all are, I just wanted an idea of which ones I should think about learning and which ones I should avoid until later.
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Offline mikey6

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #3 on: January 21, 2009, 03:54:19 PM »
So why not lisen to them or sight read through them - that will be far more beneficial than any of our opinions!
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Offline edwardweiss

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #4 on: January 21, 2009, 05:53:42 PM »
 Mikey6 has a pretty good point here. I remember finding a library which had opp.35 and 39 in the city where I was studying and the excitement I felt as made my way slowly through both sets. This was in 1966 when there were practically no recordings available. Anyway, my good wishes on your Quest whichever way you take-you are in for a real treat.

Offline learner of liszt

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #5 on: January 24, 2009, 01:20:34 AM »
I have looked at the first couple of pages of No. 1, and it seems... distantly achievable. Very distantly. However, I'm thinking Scherzo Diabolico (Op. 39 No. 3) would be a good starting place.
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"Why should I go to anyone's funeral? They won't go to mine!"
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Offline franzliszt2

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #6 on: January 25, 2009, 12:32:56 PM »
You should start with op35! It's a bit crazy to start learning op39 if you have to ask which one is hardest.

I realy don't think people should go near these pieces unless they can actually overcome the technical demands as opposed to struggling with them. The music is such that it needs absolute technical control. Nothing sounds worse than someone bashing their way through Alkan etudes when they can't play the....just take a look in the audition room here and click on any Alkan recording and you will see my point!

The 1st couple of pages of no1 seem distantly achievable? Can you play it at full speed? It's very easy to play under tempo, the tricky bit is playing it fast!

You MUST do this music justice, I honestly believe that the reason Alkan's music is not as popular as it should be becasue people who can't actually play it insist on playing it and it just sounds crap.

Start with op35, or some of the smaller pieces and work from there.

Offline opus10no2

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #7 on: January 25, 2009, 07:33:50 PM »
Op35no12 is the best of his etudes for practical technical development.

The funeral march is the least difficult from op39.

Hardest is no1, noone has played it at tempo.
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Offline learner of liszt

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #8 on: January 25, 2009, 08:24:04 PM »
I have looked at Op. 35 (I've learned No. 5, although I haven't practiced it in a few weeks...). Mostly 5, 7, and 3. I am interested in No. 12, so maybe I'll go look at it.
"My age… I cannot remember it, it keeps changing every year!"
~Bernhard
"Why should I go to anyone's funeral? They won't go to mine!"
~Learner of Liszt

Offline etudes

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #9 on: January 27, 2009, 12:33:22 AM »
You should start with op35! It's a bit crazy to start learning op39 if you have to ask which one is hardest.

I realy don't think people should go near these pieces unless they can actually overcome the technical demands as opposed to struggling with them. The music is such that it needs absolute technical control. Nothing sounds worse than someone bashing their way through Alkan etudes when they can't play the....just take a look in the audition room here and click on any Alkan recording and you will see my point!

The 1st couple of pages of no1 seem distantly achievable? Can you play it at full speed? It's very easy to play under tempo, the tricky bit is playing it fast!

You MUST do this music justice, I honestly believe that the reason Alkan's music is not as popular as it should be becasue people who can't actually play it insist on playing it and it just sounds crap.

Start with op35, or some of the smaller pieces and work from there.
agreed.
I think anyone who wants to play either concerto or symphony should at least get all op.35 done before.
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Offline gep

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #10 on: October 21, 2009, 12:15:24 PM »
Op35no12 is the best of his etudes for practical technical development.

The funeral march is the least difficult from op39.

Hardest is no1, noone has played it at tempo.
You mean it should be played (appreciatably) faster than Jack Gibbons does??
It think it's supposed to go at 180 bars a minute, and Gibbons goes at 179,5 or so...
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Offline antichrist

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #11 on: October 21, 2009, 12:33:58 PM »
jack gibbons didn't reach the comme le vent temple

but its very fine

Offline retrouvailles

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #12 on: October 21, 2009, 05:39:28 PM »
jack gibbons didn't reach the comme le vent temple

but its very fine

Temple? I didn't know there was a Comme le vent temple?!

Offline richard black

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #13 on: October 21, 2009, 06:06:21 PM »
Quote
Hardest is no1, noone has played it at tempo.

Michael Ponti's recording goes at a bit of a lick.

I remember when I first got a score of Op39 and sat at the piano to play a few through. Started no. 7 without looking through to see how long it was - that was a shock to the system!
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Offline communist

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #14 on: October 21, 2009, 08:41:33 PM »
From looking at the scores I would say:

10
8
2
11
10
1
12
7
6
7
3
5
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Offline weissenberg2

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #15 on: October 21, 2009, 08:45:24 PM »
Michael Ponti's recording goes at a bit of a lick.


Does that mean his is not up to speed? how are the rest of his Alkan etudes?
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Offline richard black

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #16 on: October 21, 2009, 10:47:48 PM »
Quote
Does that mean his is not up to speed?

It means he may well be up to speed but my LP player's out of action and I can't play the disc and check!

Quote
how are the rest of his Alkan etudes?

Quite impressive, if possibly slightly superficial in places - but he has great fun with Number 12, for instance. He only recorded 8 of them, to the best of my knowledge - i.e. no Concerto or Overture.
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Offline alpacinator1

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #17 on: October 27, 2009, 01:32:38 AM »
2 (en rythme molossique) and 3 (scherzo diabolico) aren't all that hard, and 11 (ouverture) is very long but not overly exhausting. Stay away from the concerto, symphony 3rd movement and Le Festin D'esope unless you want a huge challenge.

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Offline john11inc

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #18 on: November 02, 2009, 09:37:05 AM »
From looking at the scores I would say:

10
8
2
11
10
1
12
7
5
7
3
6

Why do you love Nos. 7 and 10 so much?  Not that I agree with your list anyway.  I'd say (from easiest to hardest):

5-11-6-3-2-9-12-4-8-7-1-10
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Offline communist

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #19 on: November 05, 2009, 11:55:27 AM »
Why do you love Nos. 7 and 10 so much?  Not that I agree with your list anyway.  I'd say (from easiest to hardest):

5-11-6-3-2-9-12-4-8-7-1-10

Have I ever said I love those two in particular?
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Offline communist

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #20 on: November 05, 2009, 12:11:30 PM »
Just noticed I accidentally put both of them in my list twice by accident  :D
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Offline ahinton

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #21 on: November 05, 2009, 12:26:17 PM »
Just noticed I accidentally put both of them in my list twice by accident  :D
...as well as omitting 4 & 9...

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Offline gep

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #22 on: November 05, 2009, 02:30:45 PM »
What are the honorable Forum members opinions about the available recordings? To my knowledge there are 4 (will-be) complete cycles (correct me if I'm wrong), these being:

Ronald Smith (I have that on LP)
Stephanie McCallum
Jack Gibbons
Marc-André Hamelin

My favorite would be Hamelin, even when that is as yet incomplete. I find the pianism here staggering if not overwhelming. Big plus: several other big Alkan pieces, equally beyond-believe played.
Jack Gibbons a very good second. Just a tad less breathtaking (and a tad less perfectly recorded sound).
Stephanie MacCallum and Ronald Smith just behind that, since they sound to my ear a bit less spectacular (taking into account the fact that McCallum's recording isn't technically as perfect as Gibbons' or Hamelin's, and the LP set cannot compete dynamically to the CD), if very good.

In short:
Hamelin: Ye Gawds!!
Gibbons: Almighty!
McCallum & Smith: Excellent!

Your views?

gep
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Offline john11inc

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #23 on: November 06, 2009, 10:57:46 AM »
I'm not sure I see a point in trying to decide who has the best complete (or, mostly complete) set.  The pieces are so varied I think you would have to approach them etude by etude.  For instance, I think Lewenthal's Symphonie and Le festin d'Esope are the best, but obviously he didn't record the others, so to view it in that way, we have to discount his exceptional recordings.  I'd agree that, overall, Hamelin is probably the best interpreter, with a solid mix of technique and musicianship (particularly in the Grande Sonate and the Trois Grandes Etudes Op. 76), but for certain pieces I like certain performers.  I think it's just a bit different than asking, say, "who is the best Chopin interpreter" or "who is the best Liszt interpreter", just because, when you dissect it to "who is the best interpreter of the full set of the Op. 39 Etudes", there just hasn't been enough attention given to them; there isn't much choice in the matter, really, so it's a bit limiting of a question.

Also, Bolet and Berman respectively, obviously ;)
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Offline ahinton

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Re: Alkan Op. 39: The hardest and the easiest.
«Reply #24 on: November 06, 2009, 12:03:12 PM »
I'm not sure I see a point in trying to decide who has the best complete (or, mostly complete) set.  The pieces are so varied I think you would have to approach them etude by etude.  For instance, I think Lewenthal's Symphonie and Le festin d'Esope are the best, but obviously he didn't record the others, so to view it in that way, we have to discount his exceptional recordings.  I'd agree that, overall, Hamelin is probably the best interpreter, with a solid mix of technique and musicianship (particularly in the Grande Sonate and the Trois Grandes Etudes Op. 76), but for certain pieces I like certain performers.  I think it's just a bit different than asking, say, "who is the best Chopin interpreter" or "who is the best Liszt interpreter", just because, when you dissect it to "who is the best interpreter of the full set of the Op. 39 Etudes", there just hasn't been enough attention given to them; there isn't much choice in the matter, really, so it's a bit limiting of a question.
This all makes good sense, I think - although that very good sense has sadly to be tempered with sheer embarrassment at the woeful lack of widespread attention that Alkan (and, for that matter, Godowsky) has attracted and to which you draw attention here; after all, the Chopin/Godowsky studies - surely a major chapter of the pianist's Bible - were completed more than 90 years ago and Alkan's Op. 39 - undoubtedly another one - appeared more than one and a half centuries ago...

Best,

Alistair
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