Alkan was counted in Busoni's pantheon of five romantics alongside Chopin, Schumann, Liszt and Brahms. Brahms and Schumann are the references in the euphoric Grand Duo Concertant - nothing short of a 20 or so minute Sonata in three turbulent movements. This is a work of diving romance and if Alkan had stopped in the style of the first movement then we would have been able to 'place' Alkan. Instead we get a second movement that clamours in bass heavy capering for all the world like a picture of a Black Sabbath. As if to make ‘amends’ the finale is back to the helter-skelter tumble of vivacity we find in the first movement. This euphoria carries over into the Cello Sonata which is in four classically well-tailored movements. Alkan's originality or eccentricity (take your pick) returns for the Adagio which is part sentimental and part affecting. This perhaps offers a parallel with Joseph Holbrooke's chamber works in which sublime ideas and treatment suddenly find themselves up against kitsch music hall ditties. A wild saltarello with grand manner Hungarian gestures from the piano round out the picture.
Busoni (1 April 1866 – 27 July 1924) was an Italian composer, pianist, editor, writer, piano and composition teacher, and conductor. Most of Busoni's works are for the piano. Busoni's music is typically contrapuntally complex, with several melodic lines unwinding at once. Although his music is never entirely atonal in the Schoenbergian sense, his mature works, beginning with the Elegies, are often in indeterminate key…
The repertoire in this recording features two innovative jewish composers - Erwin Schulhoff and Arnold Schoenberg - who persued widely differing musical styles - and who met very different fates. The three pieces performed here were completed by August 1924 and March 1927. They are not particularly Jewish in style, but are rather more reflective of the era in which they were written. Smith and Hodkinson here perform Schulhoff’s Flute Sonata and Concertino. The instrumentation of the Concertino is unique: flute doubling piccolo, viola and contrabass and the result is a fine rustic work, described by Schulhoff as "Moravian seller of shepherds’ flutes in the streets of Prague."These two rarely performed works are coupled with the rarely recorded transcription of Schoenberg’s Sonata for Wind Quintet, Op 26 by Felix Greissle. The Quintet was Schoenberg’s first strict twelve-tone composition. Fenwick Smith corresonded with Greissle when preparing the Sonata for performance and recording.
The performances of the music here are excellent, but the whole package matters, and it does not disappoint. The set comes in a good sturdy box. The 16 CDs are in similar study slipcases, with beautiful artwork on the front. There and full track listings and artist info on each one, so no rummaging in the booklet to find what is on the discs.