More Impressive Alkan from Vincenzo Maltempo

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

I first heard pianist Vincenzo Maltempo via his 2012 Alkan release that included truly impressive performances of the Op. 33 Sonata Le Quatre Ages and the four-movement Symphony culled from the composer’s Twelve Etudes in All of the Minor Keys. His Alkan follow-up contains the even more demanding Op. 39 Nos. 8 through 10, aka the Concerto for Piano Solo.

Maltempo plays the Concerto splendidly. He brings welcome lightness and rhythmic kick to the Allegretto Alla Barbaresca finale, while the central slow movement stands out for the pianist’s long singing lines and pulverizing bass notes at the climaxes. His intelligent foreground/background textural contouring helps to sustain interest in the long, discursive opening movement. One might miss Marc-André Hamelin’s wide dynamic range and absolutely effortless rapid passagework, but Maltempo may be the freer-spirited Alkanist.

In the first etude, Comme le vent, Maltempo goes for evenness and dry-point clarity in the whirling right-hand sequences, as opposed to the hell-for-leather chance-taking with which Jack Gibbons’ mid-1990s ASV recording pins you to the wall. Maltempo’s deliberation in No. 2 allows the rhythm to gather a gradual momentum, while the aphoristic unison phrases in No. 3 are shaded with alluring nuance and a tinge of mystery. Loud moments sound just a bit constricted, but all other dynamic levels convey the subtle responsiveness of a particularly special Yamaha CF III SA Concert Grand that I was lucky enough to try out during a recent visit to Rome not long after this recording was made. It obviously survived Maltempo’s powerful touch and articulation! Recommended.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Concerto for Piano Solo: Hamelin (Hyperion)

  • Vincenzo Maltempo (piano)

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