Charles-Valentin Alkan was a highly sensitive man, which led him both to friendships with the greatest composers of his day and a series of disappointments that led him to withdraw from society for years. He seems to have been quite an unhappy man, although his talent caused him to be recognized as one of the greatest performers and composers of his day.
His ability on the piano was precocious, and he entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of 5. His transcription of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony for two pianos and eight hands was famous in its day but has sadly been lost. He was close friends with Frederic Chopin - Chopin on his deathbed asked Alkan to finish one of his piano compositions - but Chopin's death hit him hard and he retired from performing for almost 25 years.
He composed this piece just as he was about to enter his reclusive phase. It is perhaps a farewell to Chopin.