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!
This generous double disc survey of Saint-Saens' chamber music offers the listener over two hours of unalloyed pleasure and contains a judicious selection of works for various ensembles that range across his career - indeed the three sonatas for bassoon, clarinet and oboe respectively are very late pieces and were part of an intended series of such works for each member of the standard woodwind family, a project only curtailed by the composer's death in 1921.
In this saga of hatred and holy war, of power and desire, there is no victor and no truth. The god-like is diminished, power restricted, taboos are broken, love betrayed. Only the composer can afford uninterrupted pathos in the wonderful duet of Samson and Dalila in the second act, which misleads us to believe in a moving story of love. Perhaps it truly is. The story of Samson is contradictory, it is human. Camille Saint-Saëns completed the work in 1876, but was only able to bring about its first performance in 1877 through the mediation of his friend Franz Liszt with pre-eminent success in Weimar. In France, where the elements of oratorio and the influence of Wagner were not well received, the first performance would not follow for another 13 years. Samson et Dalila ranks among the masterpieces of 19th century French Opera - and among the showpieces favored by the Argentine tenor José Cura. In the recorded production he saw himself celebrated on stage as a unified three-in-one: eponymous hero, director and stage designer.
The acclaimed Fidelio Trio make their Resonus debut with an exquisite recording of French piano trios – Camille Saint-Saëns’ large-scale Op. 92 second trio, and Maurice Ravel’s sole foray into the genre dating from 1914. Coming off the back of a Royal Philharmonic Society Award nomination in 2016, this recording sees the trio expand on their unparalleled reputation for new music, demonstrating the vast range of this brilliant chamber group’s abilities and talent.
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).