Arthur Rubinstein had performed Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22 many times throughout his concert career; in fact, this was one of the pieces on the program of his first public concert given in 1900. The style in which he plays it is simply captivating. It's not a serious concerto in the German-school, but rather a light-hearted and somewhat amusing concerto. This is probably the most famous recording of the composition, and it's no wonder why. The Symphonic Variations of Cesar Franck are fantastic, full of energy, vitality and French-Romantic beauty.
This generously programmed disc provides excellent value and outstanding performances of both major and lesser-known masterpieces of French choral music. The Fauré Requiem has been recorded many times, and several excellent versions of the original orchestration are available on disc. This one is among them, owing to John Eliot Gardiner's experience and perfectionist mastery of details overlooked by less-successful choral conductors. The real bonus here is the inclusion of the popular but very difficult Debussy and Ravel chansons, and the rarely heard but eminently worthy little part songs by Saint-Saëns. These pieces are a lesson in how to achieve maximum effect with the simplest materials.
The essence of Camille Saint-Saëns' music comes through perhaps most clearly in his music for solo instrument and orchestra, which exemplifies his elegant combination of melody and conservatory-generated virtuosity. The two cello concertos are here, plus a pair of crowd-pleasing short works for piano and orchestra, and the evergreen Carnival of the Animals, with pianists Louis Lortie and Hélène Mercier joining forces along with a collection of instruments that includes the often-omitted glass harmonica. There are all kinds of attractions here: the gently humorous and not over-broad Carnival, the songful cello playing of Truls Mørk, and the little-known piano-and-orchestra scene Africa, Op. 89, with its lightly Tunisian flavor (sample this final track). But really, the central thread connecting them all is the conducting of Neeme Järvi and the light, graceful work of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; French music is the nearly 80-year-old Järvi's most congenial environment, and in this recording, perhaps his last devoted to Saint-Saëns, he has never been better.
On this disc, Jean Guillou teams up with Edo DeWaart and the San Francisco Symphony for a lush performance of Camille Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3, popularly known as the Organ Symphony. This is a lush performance of the Organ Symphony with spot-on tempi, great orchestral balance, and unsurpassed balance between organ and orchestra. This symphony has one long melodic line after another, and DeWaart keeps a long view that prevents any sense of meandering. The organ is stunningly recorded. Brass blaze with glory. Strings are lush. Timpani are extremely well-defined. The clarity of the recording provides an excellent window into finer details. It is difficult to imagine how anything could have been improved upon. The disc is filled out with a strong performance of Widor's Allegro from his Symphony No. 6. This account of the Organ Symphony has everything going for it. There are no obvious weaknesses. If you have excellent subwoofers, they will get the workout of their life. Very Highly Recommended!
All the pieces included here are by French composers who lived during the impressionist period. D’Indy’s Symphonie sur un chant montagnard français is a sort of hybrid work, a mixture of a symphony and a piano concerto. This work enables the highly regarded Martin Helmchen to demonstrate his musical and technical skills once again.
Saint-Saens’s Etudes offer an intricate and scintillating panoply of the French school of technique (the basis and prophecy of what Jean-Philippe Collard so mischievously called Marguerite Long’s ‘diggy-diggy-dee’ school of piano playing). Yet as Piers Lane tells us in his alternately wry and delightful accompanying essay (obligatory reading for all lovers of French pianism), they can be as evocative (‘Les cloches de las Palmas’) as they are finger-twisting (‘En forme de valse’, to name but one). The left-hand Etudes, too, given their self-imposed limitation, are a fragile and poetic surprise. In other words Saint-Saens’s Etudes are more comprehensive than their equivalents by, say, Moszkowski or Lazare Levey (superbly recorded by Ilana Vered on Connoisseur Society and Danielle Laval on French EMI, respectively – neither issued in the UK).
This was the first commercially produced SACD hybrid super audio on the market. In June of 2000, I sat in one room recording in pcm and the research team of Philips were in the room next door taking my analogue signal directly from my mixer. I first released my pcm version in the fall of 2000. The Pyramix at that time was very primitive but thanks to the Phliips team who worked around the clock to produce the software, we were able to get this DSD version out at the beginning of 2001.
The two sonatas for cello and piano by Camille Saint-Saëns stand as bookends to what was an impressively long compositional career spanning more than seven decades. Much of Saint-Saëns' music for cello, including these two sonatas, has been dismissed as inferior and is rarely performed or recorded. Only the first cello concerto, often played by advanced students of the instrument, remains a common occurrence on disc or stage.