Alkan, Balakirev

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Alkan,Balakirev
LABELS: Appian
WORKS: Concerto for Solo Piano, Op. 39/8-10
PERFORMER: Mark Latimer (piano)
Few pianists balance careers between jazz and classical music. Mark Latimer seems, on limited acquaintance, to be a very different sort of jazz musician from the bravura specialist heard in these live recordings. On his own admission, the sound quality is not state of the art, but he promises the recordings are completely unedited. He plays the Alkan Concerto (Nos 8-10 of the minor-mode Études) with a Horowitz-like fury, without the slightest suspicion of sentimentality and with none of Marc-André Hamelin’s tasteful respect. You sit on the edge of your seat waiting for disaster, but there are only some split notes and loose stitches towards the end of the vast first movement, a few more wrong notes in the Spanish-flavoured finale. Most important, the swaggering spirit seems right.


Balakirev’s Islamey was recorded some time earlier, in 1994, in front of what sounds a very select bunch indeed. The playing is more relaxed and nicely languorous in the second theme, but it hasn’t quite the daredevil energy that Latimer brings to Alkan, while the piano sounds as if it has a cold in the head. Still, a pretty impressive performance, which originated as an encore after a demanding programme. Adrian Jack