Charles-Valentin Alkan[n 1][n 2] (pronounced: [ʃaʁl valɑ̃tɛ̃ alkɑ̃]; 30 November 1813 – 29 March 1888) was a French composer and virtuoso pianist. At the height of his fame in the 1830s and 1840s he was, alongside his friend Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt, amongst the leading virtuoso pianists in Paris, in which city he spent virtually his entire life.
He entered the Conservatoire de Paris before he was six, earning many awards. His career in the salons and concert halls of Paris was however also marked by his occasional long withdrawal from public performance, for personal reasons. Although he had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances in the Parisan artistic world, including Eugène Delacroix and George Sand, from the 1850s he adopted a reclusive life style, continuing however with his compositions. During the 1850s he published, amongst other works, his collections of large-scale studies in all the major keys (Op. 35) and all the minor keys (Op. 39). The latter includes a Symphony for piano solo (Op. 39. nos. 4–7) and a Concerto for piano solo (Op. 39 nos. 8–10), which are often considered amongst his masterpieces and are of great musical and technical complexity. Virtually all of his music is for the keyboard. Alkan emerged from self-imposed retirement in the 1870s to give a series of recitals that were attended by a new generation of French musicians.
Alkan's attachment to his Jewish origins is displayed both in his life and his work. He was the first composer to incorporate Jewish melodies in art-music. He was himself fluent in Hebrew and Greek, and devoted much time to a complete translation of the Bible into French. This work, like many of his musical compositions, is now lost. Alkan never married, but his presumed son Élie-Miriam Delaborde was, like Alkan, a virtuoso performer on both the piano and the pedal piano, and edited a number of the elder composer's works.
Following his death (which according to persistent but unfounded legend was caused by a falling bookcase) Alkan's music became neglected, supported by only a few musicians including Ferruccio Busoni, Egon Petri and Kaikhosru Sorabji. From the 1970s onwards, a succession of pianists including Raymond Lewenthal, Ronald Smith and Marc-André Hamelin has recorded his music and brought it back into the repertoire.
Alkan was born Charles-Valentin Morhange on 30 November 1813 at 1, Rue de Braque in Paris to Alkan Morhange (1780–1855) and Julie Morhange née Abraham. Alkan Morhange was descended from a long line of Jewish ancestors in the region of Metz; the village of Morhange is located about 30 miles from the city of Metz. Charles-Valentin was the second of six children, one elder sister and four younger brothers; his birth-certificate indicates that he was named after a neighbour who witnessed the birth.
Alkan Morhange supported the family as a musician and later as the proprietor of a private music school in le Marais, the Jewish quarter of Paris. At an early age, Charles-Valentin and his siblings adopted their father's first name as their last (and were known by this during their studies at the Conservatoire de Paris and subsequent careers).[n 3] His brother Napoléon (1826-1906) became professor of solfège at the Conservatoire, his brother Maxim (1818-1897) had a career writing light music for Parisian theatres, and his sister Céleste (1812-1897) was also a pianist. His brother Ernest (1816-1876) was a professional flautist, while the youngest brother Gustave (1827-1882) was to publish various dances for the piano.
Prodigy (1819–1831) 
Alkan was a child prodigy. He entered the Conservatoire de Paris at an unusually early age, and studied both piano and organ. The records of his auditions survive in the Archives Nationales in Paris. At his solfège audition on 3 July 1819, when he was just over 5 years 7 months, the examiners note that Alkan (who is referred to even at this early date as "Alkan (Valentin)", and whose age is given incorrectly as 6½), as "having a pretty little voice." The profession of Alkan Morhange is given as "music-paper ruler". At Charles-Valentin's piano audition on 6 October 1820, when he was nearly 7, (and where he is named as "Alkan (Morhange) Valentin"), the examiners comment "This child has amazing abilities."
Alkan became a favorite of his teacher at the Conservatoire, Joseph Zimmermann, who also taught Georges Bizet, César Franck, Charles Gounod, and Ambroise Thomas. At the age of seven, he won a first prize for solfège and in later years prizes in piano (1824), harmony (1827), and organ (1834). At the age of seven-and-a-half he gave his first public performance, appearing as a violinist, playing an air and variations by Pierre Rode; Alkan's opus 1, a set of variations for piano based on a theme by Daniel Steibelt, dates from 1828, when he was 14 years old. At about this time he also undertook teaching duties at his father's school. One of Charles-Valentin's pupils there, later to become his professional enemy, Antoine Marmontel, wrote of the school:
Young children, mostly Jewish, were given elementary musical instruction and also learnt the first rudiments of French grammar...[There] I received a few lessons from the young Alkan, four years my senior...I see once more ...that really parochial environment where the talent of Valentin Alkan was formed and where his hard-working youth blossomed...It was like a preparatory school, a juvenile annexe of the Conservatoire.
From about 1826 Alkan began to appear as a piano soloist in leading Paris salons, including those of the Princesse de la Moskova (widow of Marshal Ney), and the Duchesse de Montebello. He was probably introduced to these venues by Zimmermann. At the same time, Alkan Morhange arranged concerts featuring Charles-Valentin at public Parisan venues, in association with leading musicans including the sopranos Giuditta Pasta and Henriette Sontag, the cellist Auguste Franchomme and the violinist Lambert Massart (with whom Alkan gave concerts in a rare visit abroad in Brussels in 1827). In 1829, at the age of 15, Alkan was appointed joint professor of solfège - amongst his pupils was his brother Napoléon. In this manner Alkan's musical career was launched well before the July Revolution of 1830. However he continued his studies and in 1831 enrolled in the organ classes of François Benoist from whom he may have learnt to appreciate the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, of whom Benoist was then one of the few French advocates.
Early fame (1831–1837) 
Throughout the early years of the July Monarchy, Alkan continued to teach and play at public concerts and in elegant social circles. He became a friend of many who were active in the world of the arts in Paris, including Franz Liszt (who had been based there since 1827), George Sand, and Victor Hugo. It is not clear exactly when he first met with Frederic Chopin, who arrived in Paris in late 1831. In 1832 Alkan performed in his first Concerto da camera for piano and strings at the Conservatoire. In the same year, aged 19 he was elected to the influential Société Académique des Enfants d'Apollon (Society of the Children of Apollo), whose members included Luigi Cherubini, Fromental Halévy, the conductor François Habeneck, and Liszt (who had been elected in 1824 at the age of twelve). Between 1833 and 1836 Alkan participated at many of the Society's concerts.
Alkan twice competed unsuccessfully for the Prix de Rome in 1832 and 1834; the cantatas which he wrote for the competition, Hermann et Ketty and L'Entrée en loge, have remained unpublished and unperformed.
In 1834 Alkan began his friendship with the Spanish musician Santiago Masarnau which was to result in an extended and often intimate correspondence which has only come to light in recent years. Like virtually all of Alkan's correspondence this exchange is one-sided; all of Alkan's papers (including his manuscripts and his extensive library) became lost after his death. Later in 1834 Alkan made a visit to England, where he gave recitals and where the second Concerto da camera was performed in Bath by its dedicatee Henry Ibbot Field; it was published in London together with some solo piano pieces. A letter to Masarnau and a notice in a French journal that Alkan played in London with Moscheles and Cramer, indicate that he returned to England in 1835. Later that year, Alkan, having found a place of retreat at Piscop outside Paris, completed his first truly original works for solo piano, the Twelve Caprices, that were published in 1837 as opp. 12, 13, 15 and 16. Op. 16, the Trois scherzi de bravoure, is dedicated to Masarnau. In January 1836, Liszt recommended Alkan for the post of Professor at the Geneva Conservatoire, which however Alkan turned down, and in 1837 wrote an enthusiastic review of Alkan's op. 15 Caprices in the Revue et gazette musicale.
At the Square d'Orléans (1837–1848) 
From 1837, Alkan lived in the Square d'Orléans in Paris, where, amongst other celebrities including Marie Taglioni, Alexandre Dumas and George Sand, Chopin was also to settle himself. Chopin and Alkan were personal friends and often discussed musical topics, including a work on musical theory which Chopin was considering writing. By 1838, at just 25 years old, Alkan had reached a peak of his career. He frequently gave recitals, and often appeared in concerts with Chopin; whilst his more mature works had begun to be published. At this point, for a period which coincides with the birth and childhood of his son, Élie-Miriam Delaborde (1839–1913), Alkan withdrew into private study and composition for six years, returning to the concert platform only in 1844. [n 4] Alkan never either asserted or denied his paternity of Delaborde, which however the world at large seemed to assume. Marmontel wrote cryptically in a biography of Delaborde that "[his] birth is a page from a novel in the life of a great artist." Alkan gave early piano lessons to Delaborde, who was to follow his natural father as a keyboard virtuoso.
Alkan's return to the concert platform in 1844 was greeted with enthusiasm by critics, who noted the "admirable perfection" of his technique, and lauded him as "a model of science and inspiration", a "sensation" and an "explosion". They also commented on the attending celebrities including Liszt, Chopin, Sand and Dumas. To the period 1844-48 belong a series of virtuoso pieces, the 25 Préludes op. 31 for piano or organ, and the highly original sonata Op. 33 Les quatre âges. Alkan also published in 1844 his piano étude Le chemin de fer which is believed to be the first representation in music of a steam engine. Attending an Alkan recital in 1848, the composer Giacomo Meyerbeer was so impressed that he invited the pianist, whom he considered "a most remarkable artist" to prepare the piano arrangement of the overture to his forthcoming opera, Le prophète. Meyerbeer heard and approved Alkan's arrangement for four hands (which Alkan played with his brother Napoléon) in 1849; published in 1850, it is the only record of the overture, which was scrapped during rehearsals at the Opéra.
In 1847 Chopin took part with Alkan, Zimmerman, and Chopin's pupil Adolf Guttman in a performance of Alkan's transcription (now lost) of two movements of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony for two pianos, eight hands. Chopin, at his death in 1849, bequeathed to Alkan his unfinished work on piano method for completion, and a number of Chopin's students transferred to Alkan.
Retreat (1849–1872) 
In 1848 Alkan faced a major disappointment when he was passed over for the position of head of the piano department in the Conservatoire upon Zimmermann's retirement; Alkan expected, and lobbied strongly for, the appointment, and was supported by Sand, Dumas, and many other leading figures; but Daniel Auber, the head of the Conservatoire, replaced Zimmermann with the anodyne Marmontel, which the disgusted Alkan described in a letter to Sand as "the most incredible, the most shameful nomination." Delacroix noted in his journal "By his confrontation with Auber, [Alkan] has been very put out and will doubtless continue to be so." Deep disappointment arising from this incident may account for Alkan's reluctance to perform in public in the ensuing period. His withdrawal was also influenced by the death of Chopin; in 1850 he wrote to Masarnau "I have lost the strength to be of any economic or political use" and lamented "the death of poor Chopin, another blow which I felt deeply." After giving two concerts in 1853, he withdrew, in spite of his fame and technical accomplishment, into virtual seclusion for some twenty years.
Little is known of this period of Alkan's life, other than that, apart from composing, he was immersed in the study of the Bible and the Talmud. Alkan continued throughout this period his correspondence with Ferdinand Hiller, whom he had probably met in Paris in the 1830s, and with Masarnau, from which some insights can be gained. It appears that Alkan completed a full translation into French, now lost, of both the Old Testament and the New Testament, from their original languages. In 1865, he wrote to Hiller "Having translated a good deal of the Apocrypha, I'm now onto the second Gospel which I am translating from the Syriac...In starting to translate the New Testament, I was sudenly struck by a singular idea - that you have to be Jewish to be able to do it."
This period however saw the composition and publication of many of Alkan's major piano works, including the Douze études dans tous les tons mineurs op. 39, (1857), the Sonatine op. 61 (1861), the 49 Esquisses op. 63 (1861), and the five collections of Chants (1857-1872), as well as the Sonate de concert for cello and piano op. 47 (1856). These did not pass unremarked; Hans von Bülow, for example, gave a laudatory review of the op. 35 Études in the Neue Berliner Musikzeitung in 1857, the year in which they were published in Berlin, commencing "Alkan is unquestionably the most eminent representative of the modern piano school at Paris. The virtuoso's disinclination to travel, and his firm reputation as a teacher, explain why, at present, so little attention has been given to his work in Germany."
It is at this time that Alkan began to turn his attention seriously to the pedal piano (pédalier). Alkan gave his first public performances on the pédalier to great critical acclaim in 1852. From 1859 onwards he began to publish pieces 'for organ or piano à pédalier'.
Reappearance (1873–1888) 
It is not clear why, in 1873, Alkan decided to emerge from his self-imposed obscurity to give a series of six Petits Concerts at the Érard piano showrooms. It may have been associated with the developing career of Delaborde, who returning to Paris in 1867 soon became a concert fixture, including in his recitals many works by his father, and who was at the end of 1872 given the appointment which had escaped Alkan himself, as Professor at the Conservatoire. The success of the Petits Concerts led to them becoming an annual institution (with occasional interruptions due to health) until 1880 or possibly beyond. The Petits Concerts featured music not only by Alkan but of his favourite composers from Bach onwards, played on both the piano and the pédalier, and occasionally with the participation of another instrumentalist or singer. He was assisted in these concerts by his siblings, and by other musicians including Delaborde, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Auguste Franchomme.
Those encountering Alkan at this phase included the young Vincent d'Indy, who recalled Alkan's "skinny, hooked fingers" playing Bach on an Erard pedal piano: "I listened, riveted to the spot by the expressive, crystal-clear playing." Alkan later played Beethoven's Op. 110 sonata, of which d'Indy said: "What happened to the great Beethovenian poem [...] I couldn't begin to describe - above all in the Arioso and the Fugue, where the melody, penetrating the mystery of Death itself, climbs up to a blaze of light, affected me with an excess of enthusiasm such as I have never experienced since. This was not Liszt—perhaps less perfect, technically—but it had greater intimacy and was more humanly moving..."
The biographer of Chopin, Frederick Niecks, sought Alkan for his recollections in 1880 but was sternly denied access by Alkan's concierge - "To my ... enquiry when he could be found at home, the reply was a ... decisive 'Never' ." However, a few days later he found Alkan at Érard's, and Niecks writes of their meeting that "his reception of me was not merely polite but most friendly."
Alkan died in Paris on 29 March 1888, at the age of 74. For many years it was believed that his death was caused by a bookcase falling on him in his home, brought down as he reached for a volume of the Talmud from a high shelf. This tale, which was circulated by the pianist Isidor Philipp, is dismissed by Hugh Macdonald, who reports the discovery of a contemporary letter by one of his pupils explaining that Alkan had been found prostrate in his kitchen, under a porte-parapluie (a heavy coat/umbrella rack), after his concièrge heard him moaning. He had possibly fainted, bringing it down on himself while grabbing out for support. He was reportedly carried to his bedroom and died later that evening. The story of the bookcase may have its roots in a legend told of Aryeh Leib ben Asher, rabbi of Metz, the town from which Alkan's family originated.
Alkan was buried on 1 April (Easter Sunday) in the Jewish section of Montmartre Cemetery, Paris, not far from the tomb of his contemporary Fromental Halévy; his sister Céleste was later buried in the same tomb.
Alkan was described by Marmontel (who refers to "a regrettable misunderstanding at a moment of our careers in 1848"), as follows:
"We will not give the portrait of Valentin Alkan from the rear, as in some photographs we have seen. His intelligent and original physiognomy deserves to be taken in profile or head-on. The head is strong; the deep forehead is that of a thinker; the mouth large and smiling, the nose regular; the years have whitened the beard and hair … the gaze fine, a little mocking. His stooped walk, his puritan comportment, give him the look of an Anglican minister or a rabbi – for which he has the abilities."
Certainly it appears that his aversion to socialising and publicity, especially following 1850, were self-willed. Liszt is reported to have commented to the Danish pianist Frits Hartvigson that "Alkan possessed the finest technique he had ever known, but preferred the life of a recluse." Stephanie McCallum has suggested that Alkan suffered from Asperger syndrome, schizophrenia or obsessive–compulsive disorder.
Alkan's later correspondence contains many despairing comments, such as the following from a letter of about 1861 to Hiller:
"I’m becoming daily more and more misanthropic and misogynous… nothing worthwhile, good or useful to do… no one to devote myself to. My situation makes me horridly sad and wretched. Even musical production has lost its attraction for me for I can't see the point or goal." Doubtless it was this spirit of anomie that led him to reject requests in the 1860s to play in public, or to allow performances of his orchestral compositions. However it should not be ignored that he was writing similarly frantic self-analyses in his letters of the early 1830s to Masarnau.
Jack Gibbons writes of Alkan's personality: "Alkan was an intelligent, lively, humorous and warm person (all characteristics which feature strongly in his music) whose only crime seems to have been having a vivid imagination, and whose occasional eccentricities (mild when compared with the behaviour of other 'highly-strung' artistes!) stemmed mainly from his hypersensitive nature." Macdonald however suggests that "Alkan was a man of profoundly conservative ideas, whose lifestyle, manner of dress, and belief in the traditions of historic music, set him apart from other musicians and the world at large."
Alkan grew up in a religiously observant Jewish household. His grandfather Marix Morhange has been a printer of the Talmud in Metz, and was very probably a melamed (Hebrew teacher) in the Jewish congregation at Paris. Alkan's widespread reputation as a student of the Old Testament and religion, and the high quality of his Hebrew handwriting testify to his knowledge of the religion,and many of his habits (for example, preparing his own food) indicate that he practised at least some of its obligations, such as maintaining the laws of kashrut. Alkan was regarded by the Paris synagogue as an authority on Jewish music; in 1845 he assisted the Paris Consistory in evaluating the musical ability of Samuel Naumbourg, who was subsequently appointed as hazzan (cantor) of the main Paris synagogue. Alkan later contributed choral pieces in each of Naumbourg's collections of synagogue music (1847 and 1856). Alkan was appointed organist at the Synagogue de Nazareth in 1851, although he resigned the post almost immediately for 'artistic reasons'.
Alkan's op. 31 set of Préludes includes a number of pieces based on Jewish topics, including some titled Prière (Prayer), one prededed by a quote from the Song of Songs, and another titled Ancienne mélodie de la synagogue (Old synagogue melody). The collection is believed to be "the first publication of art music specifically to deploy Jewish themes and ideas." Alkan's three settings of synagogue melodies, prepared for his former pupil Zina de Mansouroff, are a further example of his interest in Jewish music. Other works evidencing this interest include no. 7 of his op. 66. 11 Grands préludes et 1 Transcription (1866), entitled "Alla giudesca" and marked "con divozione", a parody of excessive hazzanic practice; and the slow movement of the cello sonata op. 47 (1857), which is prefaced by a quotation from the Old Testament prophet Micah and uses melodic tropes derived from the cantillation of the haftarah in the synagogue.
The inventory of Alkan's apartment made at his decease indicates over 75 volumes in Hebrew or related to Judaism, left to his brother Napoléon (as well as 36 volumes of music manuscript). These are all lost. Bequests in his will to the Conservatoire to found prizes for composition of cantatas on Old Testament themes and for performance on the pedal-piano, and to a Jewish charity for the training of apprentices, were refused by the beneficiaries.
Brigitte François-Sappey points out the frequency with which Alkan has been compared to Berlioz, both by his contemporaries and later. Hans von Bülow called him "the Berlioz of the piano"; whilst Robert Schumann, in criticising the op. 15 Romances, claimed that Alkan merely "imitated Berlioz on the piano." Ferruccio Busoni repeated the comparison with Berlioz in a proposed monograph, whilst Kaikhosru Sorabji commented that Alkan's op. 61 Sonatine was like "a Beethoven sonata written by Berlioz". Berlioz was 10 years older than Alkan, but did not attend the Conservatoire until 1826. The two were acquainted, and were perhaps both influenced by the unusual ideas and style of Anton Reicha who taught at the Conservatoire from 1818 to 1836, and by the sonorities of the composers of the period of the French Revolution. They indeed both created individual, indeed, idiosyncratic sound-worlds in their music; there are however major differences between them. Alkan, unlike Berlioz, remained closely dedicated to the German musical tradition; his style and composition were heavily determined by his pianism (whereas Berlioz could hardly play at the keyboard and wrote nothing for piano solo); Alkan's works therefore also include miniatures and (amongst his early works) salon music, genres which Berlioz avoided.
Alkan's attachment to the music of his predecessors is demonstrated throughout his career, from his arrangements for keyboard of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony (1838), and of the minuet of Mozart's 40th Symphony (1844), through the sets Souvenirs des concerts du Conservatoire (1847 and 1861) and the set Souvenirs de musique de chambre (1862), which include transcriptions of music by Mozart, Beethoven, JS Bach, Haydn, Gluck, and others. In this context should be mentioned Alkan's extensive cadenza for Beethoven's 3rd Piano Concerto (1860), which includes quotes from the finale of Beethoven's 5th Symphony. Alkan's transcriptions, together with original music of Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Felix Mendelssohn, Couperin and Rameau, were frequently played during the series of Petits Concerts given by Alkan at Erard.
Alkan's interest in Jewish music has been mentioned above. As regards the music of his own time, Alkan was unenthusiastic, or at any rate detached. He commented to Hiller that "Wagner is not a musician, he is a disease." Whilst he admired Berlioz's talent, he did not enjoy his music. At the Petits Concerts, little more recent than Mendelssohn and Chopin (both of whom had died around 25 years before the series of concerts was initiated) was played, except for Alkan's own works and occasionally some by his favourites such as Saint-Saëns.
Like Chopin, Alkan wrote almost exclusively for the keyboard. Some of his music requires extreme technical virtuosity, clearly reflecting his own abilities, often calling for great velocity, enormous leaps at speed, long stretches of fast repeated notes, and the maintenance of widely-spaced contrapuntal lines. The illustration (right) from the Grande sonate is analysed by Smith as "six parts in invertible counterpoint, plus two extra voices and three doublings - eleven parts in all." Some 'trade-marks', such as a sudden explosive final chord following a quiet passage, were established at an early stage. Macdonald suggests that
unlike Wagner, Alkan did not seek to refashion the world through opera; nor, like Berlioz, to dazzle the crowds by putting orchestral music at the service of literary expression; nor even, as with Chopin or Liszt, to extend the field of harmonic idiom. Armed with his key instrument, the piano, he sought incessantly to transcend its inherent technical limits, remaining apparently insensible to the restrictions which had withheld more restrained composers.
Of the complexity of some of Alkan's works the pianist Marc-André Hamelin has said: "The aspect of Alkan that is most apparent when people who don't know him listen to him for the first time is that his music is difficult to play...But in a way, I wish that it did not take a formidable technique...the great musical worth of Alkan's music makes it worthwhile to master those difficulties." However not all of Alkan's music is either lengthy or difficult; as examples, many of the op. 31 Préludes and of the set of Esquisses op.63.
Moreover, in terms of structure, Alkan in his compositions sticks to traditional musical forms, although he may often take them to extremes as he does with piano technique. The study op. 39 no.8 (the first movement of the Concerto for solo piano) takes almost half and hour in performance; describing this "gigantic" piece, Ronald Smith points out that it convinces for reasons that apply to the classical masters, "the underlying unity of its principal themes, and a key structure that is basically simple and sound."
Some of Alkan's music gives hints of the obsessiveness which some have detected in his personality. The Chant op. 38 no. 2, entitled Fa, repeats the note of its title incessantly (in fact 414 times) against shifting harmonies which make it "cut...into the texture with the ruthless precision of a laser beam." In modelling his five sets of Chants on the first book of Mendelssohn's Songs without Words, Alkan even went so far as to ensure that the pieces in each of his sets followed precisely the same key signatures, and even the moods, of the original. Alkan was rigorous in avoiding enharmonic spelling, occasionally modulating to keys containing double-sharps or double-flats, so pianists are occasionally required to come to terms with unusual keys such as E-sharp major, enharmonic equivalent to F major, and the occasional triple-sharp.[n 5]
Early works 
Alkan's earliest works indicate that in his early teens he "was a formidable musican but as yet...industrious rather than...creative". Only with his 12 Caprices (opp.12-13 and 15-16,1837) did his compositions begin to attract serious critical attention. The op. 15 set, Souvenirs: Trois morceaux dans le genre pathétique, dedicated to Liszt, contains Le vent (The Wind), which was at one time the only piece of the composer to figure regularly in recitals. These works however did not meet with the approval of Robert Schumann, who wrote that they had "a considerable flavour of [Eugène] Sue and [George] Sand. One is startled by such false,such unnatural art... the last [piece, titled Morte (Death), is] a crabbed waste, overgrown with brush and weeds...nothing is to be found but black on black". Ronald Smith however finds in this latter work, which cites the Dies Irae theme also used by Berlioz, Liszt and others, foreshadowings of Maurice Ravel, Modest Mussorgsky and Charles Ives. Schumann did however respond positively to the pieces of Les mois (originally part published as op. 8 in 1838, later published as a complete set in 1840 as op. 74):[n 6] "[Here] we find such an excellent jest on operatic music in no. 6 [L'Opéra] that a better one could scarcely be imagined...The composer...well understands the rarer effects of his instrument." Alkan's technical mastery of the keyboard was asserted by the publication in 1838 of the Trois grandes études (originally without opus number, later republished as 'op. 76'), the first for the left hand alone, the second for the right hand alone, the third for both hands; and all of great difficulty, described by Smith as "a peak of pianistic transcendentalism". This is perhaps the earliest example of writing for a single hand as "an entity in its own right, capable of covering all registers of the piano, of rendering itself as accompanied soloist or polyphonist."
Early maturity 
Alkan's large scale Duo (in effect a sonata) op. 21 for violin and piano (dedicated to Chrétien Urhan) and his Piano Trio op.30 appeared in 1841. Apart from these, Alkan published only a few minor works between 1840 and 1844, when a series of virtuoso works was issued, many of which he had played at his successful recitals at Érard and elsewhere; these included the Marche funèbre (op. 26), the Marche triomphale (op. 27) and Le chemin de fer ( also published as op. 27). In 1847 appeared the op. 31 Préludes and his first large-scale unified piano work, the Grande sonate Les quatre âges (Op. 33). The sonata is structurally innovative in two ways. Not only is each movement slower than its predecessor, but the work anticipates the practice of progressive tonality, beginning in D major and ending in G-sharp minor. Dedicated to Alkan Morhange, the sonata depicts in its successive movements its 'hero' at the ages of 20 (optimistic), 30 ("Quasi-Faust", impassioned and fatalistic), 40 (domesticated) and 50 (suffering: the movement is prefaced by a quotation from Aeschylus's Prometheus Unbound).  In 1848 followed Alkan's set of 12 études dans tous les tons majeurs op. 35, whose substantial pieces range in mood from the hectic Allegro barbaro (no. 5) and the intense Chant d'amour-Chant de mort (Song of Love - Song of Death) to the descriptive and picturesque L'incendie au village voisin (The Fire in the Next Village) (no. 8).
A number of Alkan's compositions from this period were never performed and have been lost. Amongst the missing works are some string sextets and a full-scale orchestral symphony in B minor, which was described in an article in 1846 by the critic Léon Kreutzer, to whom Alkan had shown the score.
Internal exile 
During his twenty-year absence from the public between 1853 and 1873 Alkan produced many of his most notable compositions, although there is a ten-year gap between publication of the op. 35 studies and that of his next group of piano works in 1856 and 1857. Of these, undoubtedly the most significant was the enormous opus 39 collection of twelve studies in all the minor keys, which contains the Symphony for Solo Piano (numbers four, five, six and seven), and the Concerto for Solo Piano (numbers eight, nine and ten). The Concerto takes nearly an hour to play. Number twelve of Op. 39 is a set of variations, Le festin d'Ésope ("Aesop's Feast"). The other components of op. 39 are of a similar stature. Smith describes op. 39 as a whole as "a towering achievement, gathering...the most complete manifestation of Alkan's many-sided genius: its dark passion, its vital rhythmic drive, its pungent harmony, its occasionally outrageous humour, and, above all, its uncompromising piano writing."
In the same year appeared the Sonate de Concert op. 47 for cello and piano, "amongst the most difficult and ambitious in the romantic repertoire...anticipating Mahler in its juxtaposition of the sublime and the trivial", and with its four movements showing again an anticipation of progressive tonality, each ascending by a major third. Other anticipations of Mahler (who was born in 1860) can be found in the two 'military' op. 50 piano studies of 1859 Capriccio alla soldatesca and Le tambour bat aux champs (The drum beats the retreat), as well as in certain of the miniatures of the 1861 Esquisses, op. 63. In this context may be mentioned the bizarre and unclassifiable Marcia funebre, sulla morte d'un Pappagallo ("Funeral march on the death of a parrot", 1859), for three oboes, bassoon and voices, described by the pianist and academic Kenneth Hamilton as "Monty-Pythonesque", is also of this period.
The Esquisses of 1861 are a set of highly varied miniatures, ranging from the tiny 18-bar no. 4 Les cloches (The Bells) to the strident tone clusters of no. 45 Les diablotins (The Imps), and closing with a further evocation of church bells in no. 49, Laus Deo (Praise God). They were preceded in publication by Alkan's deceptively titled Sonatine, op. 61, in 'classical' format, but a work of "ruthless economy [which] although it plays for less than twenty minutes...is in every way a a major work."
Two of Alkan's substantial works from this period are musical paraphrases of literary works. Salut, cendre du pauvre op. 45, (1856), follows a section of the poem La Mélancolie by Gabriel-Marie Legouvé; whilst Super flumina Babylonis, op. 52 (1859) is a 'blow-by-blow' recreation in music of the emotions and prophecies of Psalm 137 ("By the waters of Babylon..."). This piece is prefaced by a French version of the psalm which is believed to be the sole remnant of Alkan's Bible translation. Alkan's lyrical side was displayed in this period by the five sets of Chants inspired by Mendelssohn, which appeared between 1857 and 1872, as well as by a number of minor pieces.
Alkan's publications for organ or pédalier commenced with his Benedictus op. 54 (1859). This was followed by pieces such as the 13 Prières (Prayers) op. 64 (1865) and the Impromptu sur le Choral de Luther 'Un fort rempart est notre Dieu' op. 69 (1866). He also issued a book of studies for the pedal board alone (no opus number, 1866) and the Bombardo-carrilon for pedal board duet (four feet) of 1872. Although many of these works verge on the grandiose, Alkan also wrote a set of very spare and simple preludes in the eight Gregorian modes (1859, without opus), which "seem to stand outside the barriers of time and space", and which Smith believes reveal "Alkan's essential spiritual modesty." Alkan's compositions for organ have been amongst the last of his works to be brought back to the repertoire; a complete recording has been undertaken by Kevin Bowyer.
Alkan's return to the concert platform at his Petits Concerts however marked the end of his publications; his final work to be issued was the Toccatina op. 75 in 1872.
Reception and legacy 
Alkan had few followers;[n 7] however, he had important admirers, including Liszt, Anton Rubinstein, Franck, and, in the early twentieth century, Busoni, Petri and Sorabji. Rubinstein dedicated his fifth piano concerto to him, and Franck dedicated to Alkan his Grand pièce symphonique op. 17 for organ. Busoni ranked Alkan with Liszt, Chopin, Schumann and Brahms as one of the five greatest composers for the piano since Beethoven. Isidore Philipp and Delaborde edited new printings of his works in the early 1900s. In the first half of the twentieth century, when Alkan's name was still obscure, Busoni and Petri included his works in their performances. Sorabji published an article on Alkan in his 1932 book Around Music; he promoted Alkan's music in his reviews and criticism, and his Sixth Symphony for Piano (Symphonia claviensis) (1975–76), includes a section entitled Quasi Alkan. The English composer and writer Bernard van Dieren praised Alkan in an essay in his 1935 book, Down Among the Dead Men, and the composer Humphrey Searle also called for a revival of his music in a 1937 essay.
For much of the 20th century, Alkan's work remained in obscurity, but from the 1960s onwards it was steadily revived. Raymond Lewenthal gave a pioneering extended broadcast on Alkan on WBAI radio in New York in 1963, and later included Alkan's music in recitals and recordings. The English pianist Ronald Smith championed Alkan's music through performances, recordings, a biography and the Alkan Society of which he was president for many years. Works by Alkan have also been recorded by Jack Gibbons, Marc-André Hamelin, John Ogdon and Steven Osborne amongst many others. Ronald Stevenson has composed a piano piece Festin d'Alkan (referring to Alkan's Op. 39 No. 12) and the composer Michael Finnissy has also written piano pieces referring to Alkan, e.g. Alkan-Paganini, No. 5 of The History of Photography in Sound. Marc-André Hamelin's Étude No. IV is a moto perpetuo study combining themes from Alkan's Symphony, Op. 39 No. 7, and Alkan's own perpetual motion étude, Op. 76 No. 3. It is dedicated to Averil Kovacs and François Luguenot, respectively activists in the English and French Alkan Societies. As Hamelin writes in his preface to this étude, the idea to combine these came from the composer Alistair Hinton, the finale of whose Piano Sonata No. 5 (1994–95) includes a substantial section entitled "Alkanique".
Selected recordings 
Feofanov, Dmitry (piano)
Razumovsky Symphony Orchestra
Stankovsky, Robert (Conductor)
Courtesy of NAXOS
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This list comprises a selection of some premiere and other recordings by musicians who have become closely associated with Alkan's works. A comprehensive discography is available at the Alkan Society website.
- Études dans tous les tons mineurs, Op. 39 – played by Ronald Smith (piano). Recorded 1977. EMI, SLS 5100 [3 LPs] (1978), partly reissued EMI Gemini, 585 4842 (2003)
- Études dans tous les tons mineurs, Op. 39 and other works – played by Jack Gibbons (piano). Recorded 1995. ASV, CD DCS 227 [2 CDs] (1995)
- Concerto, Op. 39, nos. 8–10 – played by John Ogdon (piano). Recorded 1969. RCA, LSC-3192 [LP] (1972). Great British Pianists, 4569132 (1999)
- Le festin d'Esope (Op. 39, no. 12) and other works – played by Raymond Lewenthal. Recorded 1966. RCA LM 2815 [LP mono], LSC-2815 [LP stereo]; BMG High Performance Series 633310 (1999)
- Grande sonate, Op. 33 – played by Marc-André Hamelin (piano). Recorded 1994. Hyperion, CDA669764 (1995).
- 11 Pièces dans le style religieux, et un transcription du Messie de Hændel, Op. 72 – played by Kevin Bowyer (organ). Recorded 2005. Toccata TOCC 0031 (2007)
- Sonate de concert, Op. 47, for cello and piano – played by Steven Osborne (piano) and Alban Gebhart (cello). Recorded 2008. Hyperion CDA67624 (2008).
- Piano Trio, Op. 30 – played by Trio Alkan. Recorded 1992. Naxos, 8555352 (2001)
- Alkan sometimes added to his signature "aîné" (the elder), to differentiate himself from his four brothers, all of whom were active as professional musicians, and this suffix was occasionally used by his publishers. In his personal correspondence he frequently signed himself "Valentin Alkan", and he was known as Valentin to his acquaintances. As regards the hyphenation of "Charles-Valentin"; his name is found both with and without the hyphen, even during his lifetime. It is reported as being in his acte de naissance (birth certificate) both with hyphen  and without. Alkan himself sometimes used the hyphen in his published works - for example in his foreword to the op. 31 Preludes - and sometimes not - his op. 1 appeared as by "C. V. Alkan". Other forms also occur: the Sonate de concert op. 47 has on its title-page "Ch:Vin Alkan" (cf. the signature in the header illustration to this article); Alkan's signature in his letters is frequently in the form "C:V:Alkan". Authorities on Alkan seem to use both hyphenated and unhyphenated forms indiscriminately - sometimes changing their opinion between books.
- Alkan's forenames are sometimes erroneously given as Charles-Henri Valentin (or Victorin) Morhange. It is possible that the use of 'Henri' may have arisen from a misunderstanding of the abbreviation "Ch." "Victorin" arose from a misprint in Sorabji's essay on Alkan in his 1932 book, "Around Music". (see Alkan Society Bulletin 87, 5).
- The apparent flexibility of surname may be related to the then relatively recent French law of 1807, which had required Jews to take up new surnames; this may have been a factor in the eventual decision of all of Alkan Morhange's children to use the surname Alkan, rather than Morhange. The name Alkan itself seems to derive from a surname common amongst Jews of the Moselle region, rather than from a Jewish first name.
- Delaborde's birth was registered under the name of his mother Lina Eraïm Miriam, aged 38, of Nantes, (who remains unidentified) and an unnamed father. Some have sought significance in the fact that the child's surname, Delaborde, which it is presumed was taken from his foster-mother, was the maiden name of the mother of George Sand.
- For example, in Alkan's op. 39, No. 10, where F triple-sharp is used logically as the anticipation to G double-sharp.
- Alkan's opus numberings are very erratic, often duplicated or exhibiting large gaps in their sequence.
- The claim that Ernest Fanelli was Alkan's pupil at the Conservatoire is mistaken, as Fanelli came to the Conservatoire in 1876, long after Alkan had left it.
- Conway (2012), 223.
- See, e.g. Alkan (1848), 1.
- Smith (2001) I, 14
- François-Sappey (1991), 304
- Alkan (1828) 1.
- Alkan (1857) 1.
- See examples in Conway (2013b).
- Compare, e.g., titles of François-Sappey (1991) and François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013).
- Smith (2000), I, 14
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013), 86.
- Blamont and Blamont (2005), 3-8.
- François-Sappey(1991) 303-5.
- Conway (2012) 222-5.
- See Conway (2003a), 12-13.
- Smith (2000) I, 16.
- Starr (2003), 6.
- Francois-Sappey and Luguenot (2013), 88.
- Conway (2012), 222-223.
- Smith (2000), I, 17.
- François-Sappey (1991), 14
- Eddie (2007), 2.
- Marmontel (1878), 119-20, translation in Conway (2012), 224-5.
- Francois-Sappey and Luguenot (2013), 88-9.
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013), 91-2.
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013), 95.
- Eddie (2007), 6.
- Walker (1989), 96.
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013), 97, 102.
- Conway (2010), 2-3. The correspondence is now in the Spanish Historical Archives - see 'Sources', below.
- Smith (2000) I, 83-5
- Smith (2000) I, 22.
- Letter to Masarnau of 18/19 August 1835. Sanjurjo collection, Spanish Historical Archives.
- Smith (2000) I, 22.
- Conway (2013b), 4-5.
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013), 106.
- Revue et gazette musicale , October 1837, pp. 460-461. Reprinted in Bulletin de la Société Alkan no. 8 (April 19, 1988), 5-7. (Accessed 6 May 2013).
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013), 110.
- Conway (2012) 229-30.
- Smith (2000) I, 31-2.
- George Sand website (in French), accessed 4 May 2013; Conway (2012), 227.
- Smith (2000) I, 27
- Marmontel (1882) 158.
- François-Sappey (1991) 52-3.
- François-Sappey (1991) 31-3.
- Smith (2000) II, 261-2.
- Smith (2000) II, 157.
- Conway (2012) 229.
- Conway (2012), 226.
- Conway (2012), 229-30.
- Marmontel (1878), 122; Smith (2000) I, 48.
- Smith (2000) I, 42-45.
- Letter of 14 August 1848; Luguenot and Saint-Gérand (1992) 22 (translated from original French).
- Entry of 7 April 1849, cited in Conway (2012) 229.
- Letter to Masarnau of 29 March 1850, Sanjurjo Collection, Spanish National Historical Archives (translated from original French).
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013) 135-7.
- Now in the archives at Cologne; selection published in Hiller (1958-70).
- Espagne (1996), 97.
- Smith (2000) I, 54
- Letter of May 1865, cited in Conway (2012), 231.
- Given in French translation in Bulletin de la Société Alkan no. 6, November 1987, 3-12 (accessed 6 May 2013).
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013) 58-59.
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013) 133-4.
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013) 137-8.
- Smith (2000) I, 66-7.
- Cited in Smith(2000) I, 101.
- Smith (2000) I, 70-1.
- The death certificate is cited in full in François-Sappey (1991), 310.
- Smith(2000) I, 74.
- Macdonald (1988), 118-20.
- Conway (2012), 230.
- Eleff (2012).
- Smith (2000) I, 75.
- Conway (2012) 237.
- Marmontel (1878) 125-6, translated in Conway (2012), 231.
- Smith (2000) I, 95
- S. McCallum (2007) 2-10.
- Sietz (1958-70), v. 2, 15-16. (translated from original French).
- Smith (2000) I, 57.
- See letters translated in Alkan Society Bulletin no. 88 and Alkan Society Bulletin no. 89, accessed 9 May 2013.
- Gibbons (2002)
- François-Sappey (1991), 129 (translated from the French).
- Conway (2012), 207. See also Conway (2003a) and Conway (2003b).
- see Kessous-Dreyfus (2013) 70.
- See McCallum (2007), 8, and n. 11.
- Conway (2012) 219.
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013) 132-3.
- Conway (2012), 234.
- François-Sappey (1991) 286.
- Conway (2012) 235-6.
- see Kessous-Dreyfus (2013) 47-173 for an exhaustive analysis of these works and their origins.
- Conway (2012) 235
- Conway (2012) 237
- François-Sappey (1991) 315.
- Smith (2000) I, 84-5.
- François-Sappey (1991) 318-20.
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013), 5.
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013) 8-9; Conway (2013a) 2.
- François-Sappey (1991), 293-4.
- Smith (2000) II, 178-181.
- Smith (2000) I, 62-67.
- Letter to Hiller of 31 January 1860, cited in François-Sappey (1991) 198 (translated from original French).
- Smith (2000) I, 54-5.
- Smith (2000) I, 62, 66.
- Smith (2000) II, 17, 245.
- Smith (2000) II,75.
- Smith (2000) II, 18.
- François-Sappey (1991), 130 (translated from the original French).
- In the documentary Marc-André Hamelin Supervirtuoso (part 6/10) on YouTube, from 0:29 to 1:15, (accessed 17 May 2013)
- Smith (2000) II, 38-9, 47.
- Smith (2000) II,128, 134.
- Smith (2000) II, 57
- P. McCallum (2013), 5.
- Alkan (1998) 172, third staff.
- Smith (2000), II, 1.
- Smith (2000) II, 21, where it is mentioned that it was frequently in the programmes of Harold Bauer and Adela Verne. Bauer recorded the piece on a piano roll - see discography on Alkan Society website.
- Cited in Conway (2012), 226.
- Smith (2000) II, 21-2.
- Cited in Conway (2012), 227.
- Smith (2000) II, 90.
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013), 25 (translated from the original French).
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013), 29.
- Smith (2000) II, 67-80.
- Smith (2000) II, 98-109.
- Conway (2012), 208, 236
- Smith (2000), II, 110
- Francois-Sappey and Luguenot (2013), 45 (quotation translated from the original French).
- Francois-Sappey and Luguenot (2013), 50.
- Smith (2000) II, 47.
- Interview with Hamilton on Pianomania website, accessed 15 May 2013.
- Smith(2000) II, 46-50.
- Smith (2000) II, 81.
- See text of poem in French Wikisource, accessed 16 May 2013.
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013), 50.
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013) 60-65.
- François-Sappey and Luguenot (2013) 63, 69.
- Smith (2000) II, 223.
- Volumes 1 and 2 (of 3) have been issued by Toccata Classics.
- Smith (2000) II, 170.
- Rosar, Fanelli
- François-Sappey (1991) 201, n.2.
- Smith (2000) II, 221.
- Smith (2000) I, 11.
- Smith (2000) I, 76-7.
- Francois-Sappey and Luguenot (2013) 151.
- Reprinted in Alkan Society Bulletin 87, 5-8.
- See "Sorabji’s Piano Symphony no. 6, Symphonia Clavinienses" in Alkan Society Bulletin 87, 4-5. Accessed 16 May 2013.
- Roberge, Marc-André (11 March 2013). "Titles of Works Grouped by Categories". Sorabji Resource Site. Accessed 18 May 2013.
- Smith (2000), II, 103.
- Searle (1937).
- The introduction to the talk can be found here on YouTube (accessed 17 May 2013); the other sections are also available on YouTube.
- Obituary of Smith in The Guardian, 8 July 2004, accessed 16 May 2013.
- See discography on website of the Alkan Society, accessed 16 May 2013.
- Listed as RSS 337 in the online catalogue of works at the Ronald Stevenson Society website, accessed 16 May 2013.
- See Michael Finnissy: History of Photography in Sound on the Ian Pace website, accessed 16 May 2013.
- Hamelin, Marc-André, Étude No. IV: Étude à mouvement perpétuellement semblable (d'après Alkan), Pelisorius Editions, Portland, Oregon, 2005
- Alkan Society website discography
- Correspondence of Alkan with Santiago de Masarnau, Sanjurjo Collection, Spanish National Archives, reference ES.28079.AHN/18.104.22.168//DIVERSOS-COLECCIONES,7,N.642. (accessed 21 April 2013)
- Musical editions
- Alkan, Charles-Valentin (1828). Variations on a Theme of Steibelt, Op.1: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project. Note: This republication uses the original 1828 plates of S. Richault, as stated on the IMSLP header page for the work, (accessed 21 May 2013).
- Alkan, Charles-Valentin (1848). Scherzo-focoso, Op.34: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project.
- Alkan, Charles-Valentin (1857). Sonate de Concert, Op.47: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project.
- Alkan, Charles-Valentin (1998). Le festin d'Esope and other works for solo piano. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-40066-2.
- Journals dedicated to Alkan
- Alkan Society Bulletin, 1977-present. Journal of the British Alkan Society. Freely available online.
- Bulletin de la Société Alkan, 1985-2007. Journal of the French Société Alkan (in French). Freely available online.
- Books and articles
- Blamont, Claudie and Jacques Blamont (2005). 'La Famille de Charles-Valentin Morhange, dit Alkan, pianiste et compositeur français', in Révue du cercle de généalogie juive vol. 83, 2-11.
- Conway, David (2003a). "Alkan and his Jewish Roots. Part 1: The Background" in Alkan Society Bulletin no. 61, 8-13, accessed 22.4.2013.
- Conway, David (2003b). "Alkan and his Jewish Roots. Part 2: Alkan and Judaism" in Alkan Society Bulletin no. 62, 2-11, accessed 22.4.2013.
- Conway, David (2010). "The Alkan-Masarnau Correspondence" in Alkan Society Bulletin no.82, 2-6, accessed 23.4.2013.
- Conway, David (2012). Jewry in Music: Entry to the Profession from the Enlightenment to Richard Wagner. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-01538-8
- Conway, David (2013a). "Books" in Alkan Society Bulletin no. 89, 1-4, accessed 6 May 2013.
- Conway, David (2013b). "Alkan/Masarnau II: Alkan in Piscop" in Alkan Society Bulletin no. 89, 4-10, accessed 6 May 2013.
- Curtis, Minna (1959). Bizet and his world. London: Secker & Warburg.
- Eddie, William A. (2007). Charles Valentin Alkan: his life and his music. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84014-260-0.
- Ellef, Zev (2012). "The Wages of Criticism", in Jewish Review of Books, no.8, accessed 23 May 2013.
- Espagne, Michel (1996). Les juifs allemands de Paris à l'époque de Heine: La translation ashkénase. Paris: Pesses Universitaires de France. ISBN 978-2-13047-531-6.
- François-Sappey, Brigitte (ed.) (1991). Charles Valentin Alkan. Paris: Fayard. ISBN 987-2-21302-779-1.
- François-Sappey, Brigitte and François Luguenot (2013). Charles-Valentin Alkan. Paris: Bleu Nuit. ISBN 978-2-3-35884-023-1.
- Gibbons, Jack (2002). The Myths of Alkan – transcript of a talk given on BBC Radio 3 (retrieved 27.1.2012).
- Hiller, Ferdinand, ed. R. Sietz (1958–70). Aus Ferdinand Hiller's Briefwechsel (1826-1861): Beitraege zu einer Biographie Ferdinand Hillers (7 vols.), Cologne: Arno Volk-Verlag.
- Lacombe, Hervé (2000). Bizet, naissance d'une identité créatrice. Paris: Fayard. ISBN 978-2-21360-794-8.
- Luguenot, François and Jacques-Philippe Saint-Gérand (1992). "Alkan et George Sand: Analyse d'une relation épistolaire", in L. le Guillou (intr.), Autour de George Sand: Mélanges offerts à Georges Lubin, Brest: Faculté des Letters et Sciences Sociales, Université de Brest.
- Macdonald, Hugh (1988). 'More on Alkan's Death'. The Musical Times, vol. 129, 118-20.
- Marmontel, Antoine (1878), Les pianistes célèbres: Silhouettes et médaillons (2nd edition), Paris: Heugel et fils.
- Marmontel, Antoine (1882), Virtuoses contemporains: Silhouettes et médaillons, Paris: Heugel et fils.
- McCallum, Peter (2013). Charles-Valentin Alkan and his Recueils de Chants, Volume One, liner notes to Toccata Classics CD TOCC0157, "Charles-Valentin Alkan: Complete Recueils de Chants, Volume One" played by Stephanie McCallum, (accessed 14 May 2013).
- McCallum, Stephanie (2007). "Alkan: Enigma or Schizophreniac?" in Alkan Society Bulletin no. 75, 2-10. Accessed 9 May 2013
- Nicholas, Jeremy (2007). Liner notes, Alkan: Concerto for solo piano; Troisième receuil de chants, Marc-André Hamelin, piano; Hyperion CDA67569.
- Rosar, W. H. (n.d.) 'Fanelli, Ernest' in Oxford Music Online, Oxford University Press.
- Searle, Humphrey (1937). 'A Plea for Alkan', in Music and Letters, vol. 18 no. 3 (July 1937)
- Smith, Ronald (2000). Alkan: The Man, the Music. (2 vols. in one). London: Kahn & Averill. ISBN 978-1-871082-73-0.
- Starr, Mark (2003). "Alkan's Flute" in Alkan Society Bulletin no. 61, 5-6, accessed 21 April 2013.
- Walker, Alan (1989). Franz Liszt: The Virtuoso Years 1811-1847, London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571152-78-0.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Charles-Valentin Alkan|
About Alkan 
- Alkan Society website, including complete and regularly updated discography
- Alkan web site of Sylvain Chosson, contains detailed listing of Alkan's works, with some downloadable scores
- "The Myths of Alkan" by Jack Gibbons
- Unriddling Alkan by David Conway
- Alkan-Zimmerman International Music Association
- Pictures of Alkan
Scores and sheet-music 
- Free Alkan scores and manuscripts – site of Sylvain Chosson
- Kunst der Fuge website: many of the piano works in MIDI files
- Alkan Piano Trio-Discussion of work and soundbites
- www.kreusch-sheet-music.net – Free Scores by Alkan
- Free scores by Alkan at the International Music Score Library Project
Performances on the Web 
- Alkan's "Allegro Barbaro" on YouTube from Études dans les tons majeurs, Op. 35, No. 5, played by Jack Gibbons
- Menuet from Alkan's Symphonie, Op. 39, No. 6 on YouTube, played by Jonathan Powell
- Last movement of Alkan's Symphonie, Op. 39, No. 7 on YouTube, played by Jonathan Powell
- First movement on YouTube, Alkan's Concerto, Op. 39, No. 8, played by Jack Gibbons
- Trois Andantes Romantiques, Op. 13, No 2 on YouTube, played by Lloyd Buck
- Scherzo Focoso, Op. 34 on YouTube, played by Lloyd Buck
- Le Festin d'Ésope on YouTube, played by Edward Cohen
- Four Esquisses from Op. 63 on YouTube, played by Edward Cohen