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Heaven and Hell...

... await you on March 3 when pianist Albert Frantz performs his last concert in the current Bösendorfer Hall. The program includes works by Schubert, Beethoven and Alkan.

After an introductory C minor Impromptu by Schubert, the American artist's program combines two summits of the piano literature, Beethoven's heavenly final sonata, Op. 111, and the diabolical Grand Sonata, Op. 33, by Charles-Valentin Alkan.

Albert Frantz studied with Bösendorfer Ring recipient Paul Badura-Skoda.

Albert Frantz studied with Bösendorfer Ring recipient Paul Badura-Skoda.

Alkan - a 19th-century musical genius

Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888) was a contemporary (as well as neighbor) of his close friend Chopin in Paris, who deeply admired him - and Chopin wasn't Alkan's only devotee. His great contemporaries, including Liszt, Busoni and Anton Rubinstein, equally venerated him and Debussy, Ravel, Saint-Saëns and Cesar Franck appreciated and studied his music. He was considered among the greatest musical geniuses of the 19th century.

Yet his music fell into oblivion for an entire century, for two primary reasons: the first is that Alkan withdrew almost entirely from society, and second, much of his music is considered virtually unplayable. Alkan's friend Liszt - who is still considered the greatest pianist in history - said of Alkan that he had the finest piano technique he ever knew, and that Alkan was the only person in the world he was afraid of playing in front of.

Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888) was a composer and among the greatest piano virtuosos of his time.

Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888) was a composer and among the greatest piano virtuosos of his time.

The most radical Romantic piano sonata

American pianist Albert Frantz is playing what may be the Vienna premiere of Alkan's Grand Sonata, 163 years after it was composed. It is the most radical piano sonata of the Romantic era and (unfortunately for the pianist) by far the most difficult. Even the structure is strange: Subtitled "The Four Ages," it starts with a lightning-fast scherzo and gets slower with each movement. The masterpiece is the second movement, "Quasi-Faust," which climaxes with a fugue for more voices than there are fingers (counting two octave doublings). The third movement, subtitled "A Happy Family," portrays a man at age 40 and the abstract final movement, "Prometheus Bound," a dying man (at only 50!).

Bösendorfer Hall, located at Graf Starhemberg-Gasse 14 in Vienna's 4th District

Bösendorfer Hall, located at Graf Starhemberg-Gasse 14 in Vienna's 4th District

For Bösendorfer Hall's complete monthly program (which is ending at the end of March), please visit: www.boesendorfer.com

Bösendorfer Artist Albert Frantz

Albert Frantz (b. 1974) began playing the piano at the unusual age of seventeen. Upon graduating from Penn State University, where he studied with Steven H. Smith, he became the first pianist to win a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Vienna in nearly a decade. Here, he studied with Roland Batik at the Vienna Conservatory, privately with Sally Sargent and for many years with Paul Badura-Skoda. His debut CD, containing works of Charles-Valentin Alkan, will be released later this year by Gramola Records.