18th January 2020
Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944)
Six Etudes de concert, op.35 (1886)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Sigismond Thalberg (1812-1871)
Fantaisie sur des thèmes de l'opéra Moïse de G. Rossini, op.33
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Réminiscences de Norma - Grande fantaisie, S.394
Critical acclaim for Viner's performances ..
'seemingly effortless, and dramatically aware...Viner turns Alkan’s forbidding torrents of notes into real music'. The Times Dec 2017
'[...] from Viner’s fingers the iridescent showers of notes cascade with scintillating exuberance [...] a blazing young British talent' – Gramophone Magazine
'Here Viner manages a near impossible feat, bringing the melody to the fore with incredibly natural phrasing [...] The five stars are for Viner, who wins his own duel with Thalberg' – Pianist Magazine
Viner rises to Alkan's extraordinary challenges ...
Alkan: 12 Etudes, Op 35 Mark Viner (Piano Classics) 5/5stars
Andrew Clements, Guardian Wed 13 Dec 2017
The piano music of Charles-Valentin Alkan is no longer regarded as the preserve of a handful of zealous specialists. Over the last two decades a whole raft of young pianists have emerged keen to take on the challenges presented by the French composer’s keyboard writing, which is some of the most demanding in 19th-century music. The Piano Classics label has already documented a number of those exceptional performances, most notably in the revelatory series of discs from Vincenzo Maltempo, and now come two further additions to that series. One of them, played by Giovanni Bellucci, is devoted to Alkan’s early works – the three Concerti da Camera Op 10, and the first ever recording of the Six Pieces Op 16. The other, from the young British pianist Mark Viner, is a complete performance of one of his most substantial and remarkable cycles, the 12 Etudes in all the major keys, Op 35.
Alkan's C major Presto tests a pianist’s tremolo ability almost to destruction
First published in 1847, the Etudes follow a sequence of ascending fourths, beginning with the deceptively straightforward Etude in A, and ending with the piece in E. The preludes and studies by Chopin (who was Alkan’s neighbour in Paris in the 1840s) and the first versions of what became Liszt’s Transcendental Studies are the obvious models for some of the piano writing, but Alkan frequently pushes on into territory unknown even to those composers. The C major Presto tests a pianist’s tremolo ability almost to destruction; the F major piece is a ferocious Allegro Barbaro that anticipates Bartók’s work of the same name by more than 60 years; and two other pieces – in E flat and G flat – are built more like descriptive tone poems than studies, though they were composed before Liszt even began his groundbreaking set of symphonic poems.
Viner shows he is an impressively unflappable interpreter of this sometimes extraordinary music. His playing is as beguiling in the lyrical straightforwardness of the A major Etude as it is controlled in the weirdly manic counterpoint of the C sharp piece, or commanding in the bravura explosions that regularly punctuate the cycle. His playing is never showy; he emphasises that these are profound explorations of early romantic sensibility first and extreme technical challenges second, and that is a totally convincing way of dealing with some of the most remarkable piano music of its time.
Mark Viner is recognised as one of the most exciting British
concert pianists of his generation. His playing is notable for its individuality, tonal allure, musical integrity and technical mastery. He began playing at the age of 11 and two years later, he was awarded a scholarship to enter the Purcell School of Music. There he took lessons with Tessa Nicholson for the next five years. Another scholarship to him to the Royal College of Music where he studied with Niel Immelman for six years and graduated with both first class honours in a Bachelor of Music degree and a distinction in Masters of Performance.
He has given acclaimed performances at London’s Wigmore Hall, St. John’s Smith Square and Royal Academy of Art. Engagements in his hometown of Oxford include recitals at the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building and a public masterclass with Lang Lang at the Sheldonian Theatre, while earlier in the year he was invited to play for the Royal visit of H.R.H. Prince Charles, later making his début with the Oxford Philomusica Orchestra at the Sheldonian Theatre under the batôn of Marios Papadopoulos.
After being awarded 1st Prize at the C.V. Alkan – P. J. G. Zimmerman International Piano Competition in Athens last year, invitations abroad have continued to flourish. While having travelled for concerts at the Achilleion Palace of Corfu and the Megaro Moussikis of Athens, his official début in the Hellenic capital was hailed by the press as the most important musical event of 2012. Following his Athenian triumph, he was elected Honorary Board Member and Special Music Advisor of the C.V. Alkan – P. J. G. Zimmerman International Music Association as well as Honorary Member of the Gina Bachauer International Music Association.
Awards received in previous years include a bursary from The Countess of Munster Musical Trust and the Sarah Mundlak Memorial Prize for Piano which he received for having gained the highest mark in the year for his final recital in the Royal College of Music
Cosy Hall, Newport, Shropshire