Charles-Valentin Alkan: A Brilliant Young Pianist

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Let’s, begin the story of this prodigious composer and virtuoso pianist, Charles- Valentin Alkan, whose much life is veiled in mystery.

Family and Early life

Charles-Valentin was born on 30 November 1813 at Rue de Braque to Morhange couple. His mother’s name was Julie Morhange, and his father, Alkan Morhange. He was the second elder sister and four younger brothers, all assured for musical careers in the six siblings. 

At an early age, he started supporting his family as a musician. Just over five years seven months, he gave the solfège audition at the Paris Conservatoire, still surviving in Archives Nationales, Paris.

As a Little master of composition and virtuoso pianos 

The child prodigy earned a lot of fame when he started studying music and gave his first audition at the age of five.

Charles-Valentin began studying at Conservatoire de Paris at an unusually young age. He entered there to learn both piano and organ. At five, the child prodigy gave his first audition. The examiner commented as “having an adorable little voice.” He got the position of “music-paper ruler.”

On 6 October 1820, the seven-year-old child prodigy participated in a piano audition. At that Paris Conservatoire, he earned fame as a child with extraordinary abilities. His teachers became the fan of his art at the Conservatoire where he taught by Joseph Zimmerman. 

He won his first prize for solfège when he was 7, and in 1824 won the piano awards. The seven-and-a-half year old joined the famous violinist and composer Pierre Rode for his fiest public appearance.  

Rising star of “the world of the arts” in Paris

With the growing age, his talent grew more and more. Around 1826, Alkan began to appear as a piano soloist in leading Parisian salons. In 1827 he visited Brussels for preforming in a musical concert. In 1828, his Opus number ranked at top. The “work number” assigned to a musical composition, indicating the chronological order of the production. In 1829, he worked as a joint professor of solfège.

Alkan also taught and played at public concerts. He also became an inspiration for many activities in the art world in Paris. He gave his solo performance in his first “Concerto da camera” for piano and strings at the Conservatoire in 1832. At 19, he became a part of the influential Société Académique des Enfants d’Apollon (Society of the Children of Apollo).

The journey from retreat to Reappearance

His virtual seclusion of twenty years stirred a lot of rumors.

With all the extreme events in life during 1848-1850, Alkan decided to go into virtual seclusion for some twenty years. Later in 1873, Alkan reappeared and gave six Petits Concerts at the Érard piano showrooms. During his twenty-year seclusion between 1853 and 1873, Alkan produced many of his most notable compositions, which pieces published later.


Charles- Valentin Alkan died in Paris on 29 March 1888 for many years at the age of 74.

Also read: Bobby Fischer: Former renowned chess child prodigy

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