For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by musicians and composers who might be classified as “obscure.”
The list of such artists (in any genre) is long but I will try to compile a list of the individuals that have impressed me.
Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938)- Polish virtuoso pianist and composer of some very knotty piano works. He was a renowned wit and his home both in New York and in Paris was the meeting place for many well known artists from Josef Hofmann to Maurice Ravel. Like many lesser known but worthwhile musicians his works may be an acquired taste but well worth cultivating.
Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888)- Everything I said about Godowsky can be applied to Alkan. Except, of course, that Alkan was French and from an earlier era. Alkan was a close friend of Chopin.
Alkan was also a prodigy who achieved early fame but would retreat to seclusion in his early thirties. He did not perform again until very late in his life though he did compose the entire time. His compositions were “rediscovered” by pianist Raymond Lewenthal and others in the 1960’s and Alkan’s music has since been recorded with some regularity.
Alkan was a Talmudic scholar and the tale of his death has become legendary. It is said that he met his Maker while reaching for a volume of the Takmud from a high shelf and the bookcase toppled on him.