Although known for his musical skills, his life was more colorful than anything he played on the piano.
He fled France during the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and went to London, his 121 parrots and cockatoos in tow.
He was a painter who used the pseudonym, "Miriam."
His birth registry does not name a father, but many believe his father was composer and pianist Charles-Valentin Alkan.
He and Georges Bizet were close, but competitive friends, and Bizet died soon after engaging him in a swimming competition from which Bizet developed a chill.