, Op 61, was written fourteen years after the Grande Sonate
and forms a striking contrast to it. Concise and concentrated in the extreme, refined in its style of writing, and of exceptional technical difficulty, it is a gem of equilibrium and perhaps presents Alkan at his most accessible. Its first movement, although swept along and interrupted by violent angry outbursts, maintains a profound coherence, reinforced by the taut conjoining of its two themes. The Allegramente which follows, in F major, belongs within the best tradition of Alkan’s falsely naive works. It is immediately reminiscent of the slow movement from Maurice Ravel’s Sonatine
; Ravel was, moreover, familiar with the music of this, the composer of Le festin d’Esope
. The Scherzo-Minuet, in D minor, is one of those perpetual motion pieces of which the composer was so fond; he interrupts its driving rhythm with a trio which eases the pace of the movement but is unsettled by various rhythmic and harmonic devices. The finale, Tempo giusto, opens with startling fifths which conjure up the empty chords of a cello or the toll of bells, in the style of Mussorgsky in his Pictures at an Exhibition
; the sections which follow vary greatly without ever altering the movement’s deep cohesion. A dry fortissimo chord brings the four movements to a close.
from notes by François Luguenot © 1995
English: Ansy Boothroyd