Hi guys I’ve been practicing piano for years. I heard the piece Le Festin D’Aesop by Charles Alkan and got obsessed researching about this one. However, there is a theory that the sound from the piece depicts different sound of animals who present in Aesop’s fables. I attempted to imagine the sound but nothing is relevant. Could someone practicing this before help me out?


2 Answers 2


I shouldn't worry if you can't identify animals in all the variations. I know that in many of Aesop's fables the characters are animals, but perhaps in trying to pin the tale on the music we have the wrong idea. I quote from Ronald Smith's excellent Alkan Vol. two, The Music:

Sir Roger L'Estrange's Life and Fables of Aesop offers a more plausible theory. He relates how Aesop's master, Xanthus, invited several philosophers to supper on two consecutive nights. Xanthus instructed his slave to provide a banquet from the choicest and then from the basest of all foods. On both occasions Aesop brought the same delicacy to his master's table, an ox-tongue, but prepared in every possible manner: sliced, dressed, fried, boiled, etc. In this way Aesop was able to demonstrate to his master's distinguished guests the absolute power of the word, its responsibility for all good and for all evil in the world. This was "Aesop's feast".

So perhaps the only connection to the music is that it is a theme with diverse variations. And the variations certainly are diverse. If you're wondering "if that's all he meant, why did he use an obscure classical allusion instead of just Air varié?", well, that's Alkan for you. He liked putting allusions to the classics, or to the Torah/Old Testament, in titles of his works.

I agree with Ronald Smith in identifying animals in one variation: in XXI we have hunting horns, and in XXII Alkan unleashes the hounds, which get increasingly vocal as the variation continues. The way Raymond Lewenthal plays XXII it's hilarious.

Best of luck trying to master Le festin d'Esope. Parts of it are very taxing on the stamina (e.g. XXV and the ensuing coda) or the fingers (especially XVII and XVIII).


No, it sounds like you have to use your imagination.

According to this source,

It’s in the finale (`Free multiple variations’) that the Festin (communal feast) aspect comes into its own. In Alkan’s Le Festin d’Aesop the variations seem to represent animals – although, unlike say Saint-Saëns’s Carnaval des animaux, we are left to guess their identities.

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