The actual stuff and substance of his music … is of such startling oddity, such intensely personal and individual quality, shot through with an eerie, uncanny feeling that makes it of irresistible fascination.
—Kaikhosru Sorabji, Mi Contra Fa
For someone thought by Liszt to possess the greatest piano technique of the age and equally esteemed by Busoni as one of the great composers for the piano after Beethoven, Charles Valentin Alkan has certainly fallen on hard times. Even before his death on Holy Thursday, 1888, Alkan had fallen into the unremitting obscurity from which he is only now beginning to emerge. History is happenstance: it can be as harsh to an Alkan as it can be kind to a Satie.
Though apparently a warm, if somewhat shy, young man, Alkan developed into a notorious misanthrope and hermit in his...