Charles-Valentin Alkan, from Jewish faith to modernity

A radio show of the European Institute for Jewish Music, hosted by Hervé Roten

Musiques Juives d’hier et d’aujourd’hui, Tuesday September 24th 2013, Judaïques FM (94.8), 21h05.

Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888) is a composer, virtuoso pianist, and a teacher and was often compared to Chopin or Liszt.
His musical language and his whole work that we rediscover today speak of a surprising modernity, long in advance from his time.

Alkan is born and died in Jewish faith. With his brothers and sisters, born with the name Morhange, he chooses as a surname the Hebrew first name of his father and becomes Charles-Valentin Alkan senior. As he knows many ancient languages (Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Syriac), he translates the Old and New Testament.

Along with Fromental Halévy, he collaborates occasionally with the Consistoire to the modernization of the liturgy. He will compose in particuliar two melodies for worship, asked by the hazan Samuel Naumbourg (Ets Khayim and Hallelujah). In 1851, he becomes the organ player of he synagogue in rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth, before resigning a few days later!

He writes a compilation of Prayers for organ, some with a Hebrew text aside, but these melodies are as much free compositions as prayers. Finally in 1854, he writes three small Jewish melodies, of which the third one is a paraphrase of Estro poetico-armonico by Benedetto Marcello, Venitian composer from the XVIIIth century, a Christian interested in Jewish liturgy.

Alkan dies in 1888, crushed down, according to the legend, by his library while he was looking for the Talmud!

Musicologist Anny Kessous Dreyfuss who wrote a book dedicated to the Jewish work of Charles-Valentin Alkan – Le Passant du pont de l’Europe : Charles-Valentin Alkan, will speak of the importance of this great composer who succeeded to reconcile Jewish tradition and modernity of his time.

A radio show illustrated with many musical excerpts...

Charles-Valentin Alkan - Hervé Roten (Judaïques FM 94.8)

Listen to

In case the music player doesn't open, you must allow the opening of pop-ups for the website iemj.org in your browser settings.

  • Charles-Valentin Alkan - Hervé Roten (Judaïques FM 94.8)

Lire tout

You may also like

Symposium and concerts Vox Aurea-Via Sacra 2014 - Sacred Jewish music

Sunday September 7th, 2014, 18200 Saint-Armand Montrond Sacred music holds an essential place in Jewish music history. All day long, conferences (…)

The night of theology - 4th edition

Thursday January 30th, 2020 from 7 pm to 11h30 pm. An evening dedicated to relations between music and religion, and then to the ecological (…)

Jewish Music: When Singular is Plural

Wednesday November 6, 2019, 6 pm a lecture by Hervé Roten, Director of the European Institute of Jewish Music, at the Pontifical Gregorian (…)

Jacques Offenbach and friends - From the Synagogue to the Opera

NEW RELEASE AT THE EIJM’S PUBLISHING HOUSE. This CD makes us discover the original Hebrew works of Isaac and Jacques Offenbach, Giacomo Meyerbeer, (…)

Symposium in Hannover : Magnified and Sanctified, The Music of Jewish Prayer II

From the 9th to the 12th September 2019 at the Hannover university (GERMANY), international symposium on Jewish liturgical music. Hervé Roten, (…)