Charles Valentin Alkan Morhange

CharlesValentin Alkan Morhange


CharlesValentin Alkan Morhange was a French composer and pianist he was afamous virtuoso and teacher even though he had many friends who wereartists and musicians. His music was often difficult and unorthodoxwhich displayed his imagination and ingenuity. He preferred to playother composers compositions rather than his own however, Alkan’smusic isn’t easy to play though most of it is within any virtuosopianist.


Wikipediaprovides that Alkan was born on 30thNovember 1813 and died on 29thMarch 1888 in Paris and he was famous in the 1830s and 1840s. He wasone of the most celebrated pianists and earned many awards at theConservatoire de Paris. According to Wikipedia, In late 1840s Alkanadopted a reclusive life style as he continued with his compositions.He published his collections and works in large scale in the majorand minor keys. 1Some of his most known master pieces are Symphony for Solo Piano andConcert for Solo Piano which are incredibly great and of technicalcomplexity.

Inaddition, Alkan was the first composer to incorporate Jewish melodiesin the art music, given his Jewish origins which he displayed in hislife and works. Though his works had been neglected, it has now beenbrought in repertoire.

TheNew Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Volume 1

TheNew Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians provides that Alkan wasborn in 30th November 1813 and died on 29thMarch 1888 in Paris. His real name was Morhange and was one of theleading piano virtuosos of the 19thcentury. This dictionary provides that Alkan was ignored by thesucceeding generations despite his remarkable technique andimagination.

Accordingto this dictionary, Alkan described himself as extraordinary becauseof his piano prowess especially for his age. He had won a premierprix for piano in 1824, for organ in 1834 and for harmony in 1827.2From 1829 he was a part time teacher of Solfege at the conservatoirehowever he was never a full member staff. Most of his works andstyle are for piano and many are based on operatic melodies. Alkan’sappearances disappeared from the limelight and he played more musicby other composers more than his own compositions. It is in his laterlife that he attracted renowned critics like d’Ortigue and LisztSchumann.

Grovemusic Online

Accordingto Grove Music Online, Alkan was one of the best piano virtuosos andunusual composers of the 19thcentury. His career began early with extraordinary abilities whichlead him to win a premier prix for piano in1824, for harmony in 1827and for organ in 1834. There is are long periods of his life that areunchartered, as long as 20 years, given the fact that he disappearedfrom the view of concerts at a certain time of his life.

Accordingto Grove music online, Alkan performed the Symphonie from op 39 butnever the complete concerto bibliographies describing his playingprovide that it was pure, brilliant, perfectly controlled and severe.He was especially attached to repertory of historical music and hispromulgation of music for instance the late Beethoven sonatas pianosmusic. The most recognized fact about Alkan is that he had atechnical rigour style, for instance, he used pedal points againsttheoretically incompatible counterpoints. He’s also recognized asmaster of the naïve style in such pieces such as ‘Moriturite salutant,no 21 of the 48 motifs,

BakersBiographical Dictionary of Musicians

Accordingto Bakers Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Alkan had establishedhimself in the salons of Paris as a talented pianist as well asskilled composer. He wrote three chamber works with Franchomme and J.Alard. On March 1838 he made an appearance in a concert with a greatartist Chopin and enjoyed a good reception. However, he disappearedfrom the limelight until 1844 where he interrupted his solo pianocareer. Later Alkan started being seclusive and this dictionaryinforms us that this lifestyle was pushed by the fact that he was notchosen as a successor as a professor of Piano at the ParisConservertoire.3In addition to this, Chopin died and it was at this time that Alkanbecame a virtual recluse.

Thisdictionary also provides that Alkan was enigma and that one of hisstudents Elie Delaborde was his biological son. However this claimhas not been substantiated. In addition, this dictionary providesthat though his artistry with the piano was highly praised to thoseof Liszt and Chopin, he was misanthropy which made his not to be onthe forefront.


Theencyclopedia Britannica provides that Alkan was a notable keyboardvirtuoso and that he drew attention at the age of seven when he wonthe first among his numerous prizes at the Paris conservatory.However at the age of 20, Alkan withdrew from concert performancesand the society and chose to devote his time to music composition. 4

Thisencyclopedia, unlike the others, provides that Alkan was excelled byLiszt and Johannes Brahms in the keyboard technique. In addition, itprovides that Alkan felt that Liszt overshadowed him. In his minimalappearances in concerts Alkan played the 18thcentury compositions, which were not his own and were considered outof fashion.

TheNew Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians volume 11

TheNew Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians provides that Alkanenjoyed a cheerful, outgoing and confident youth whose teachers wereDourlen for harmony and P.J. Zimmermann for the piano. He became veryclose with Chopin who was a musician, however he became shy later inhis life thus most of his life goes undocumented for long periods. Inaddition Alkan became rare in the public eye when he fell out withZimmermann after not being chosen as a succeeding professor at theConservatoire. In regard to this he did not have any public office orhonour.5

Hisbibliographies have documented most of his enigmatic character andmusic, more particularly bibliographies by Marmontel and de Bertha. It is accounted that he had a few friends and enjoyed the company ofRussian aristocratic ladies. His dressing was old fashioned andrarely went out.

Inmy opinion, the most useful and reliable source of Alkan’s life andworks is The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and BakersBiograghical Dictionary of Musicians. the Grove Music online is morespecific and detailed especially when it comes to his works andstyle. These three provide accounts of Alkan Morhange’s life as ithappened. They are not contradictory and they provide the informationchronologically such that it is easy to follow.


EncyclopædiaBritannica Online,s. v. &quotValentin Alkan&quot, accessed February 20, 2016,

Grove,George, and Stanley Sadie. TheNew Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.Washington, D.C.: Grove`s Dictionaries of Music, 1980.

Baker`sBiographical Dictionary of Musicians.Farmington Hills, MI: Schirmer Books, 2000.

WikipediaChales Valentin Alkan, &lt

Sadie,Stanley, and John Tyrrell. TheNew Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.New York: Grove, 2001.

GvoveMusic Online, Alkan, Valentin,


1 Wikipedia Chales Valentin Alkan, &lt &gt

2 Grove, George, and Stanley Sadie. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Washington, D.C.: Grove`s Dictionaries of Music, 1980.

3 Baker`s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. Farmington Hills, MI: Schirmer Books, 2000.

4 Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. &quotValentin Alkan&quot, accessed February 20, 2016,

5 Sadie, Stanley, and John Tyrrell. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. New York: Grove, 2001.