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Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Javotte – Complete Ballet (1896)
Parysatis: Ballet; (Introduction and Three Scenes) (1902)
The Queensland Orchestra/Andrew Mogrelia
Recorded at the ABC Studio, Brisbane, Queensland, March 1996
MARCO POLO 8.223612 [67.42]

Saint-Saëns’ 1896 ballet music for Javotte is recorded here apparently complete on disc for the first time. It’s a village romance, light and airy, but dramatically pleasing and sheds light on Saint-Saëns’ multi-faceted compositional talents. The scenario was sent to him by J.L. Croze and the composer was clearly spurred to immediate work because he’d completed the score within the year, although it was to be over a decade before it was mounted in Paris (Lyon had staged it much earlier). From Scene I’s Ensemble opening we encounter the composer whose control of diaphanous and colourful writing is Mendelssohnian in its lightness and aptness. But in dramatic terms he can cover a multitude of pertinent compositional avenues, from the stern fugato of the Entrance of the heroine, Javotte to the aerial delicacy of the first Pas de deux. The Scene I Bourée is heavy and staunch but the succeeding Départ pour les vêpres is saturated in an exotic, Japanese sound-world and the hero Jean’s arrival is met with lighthearted nonchalance complete with a bustling central section.

Saint-Saëns’ scoring is perfectly aligned to the dictates of this essentially optimistic frolic and his boldness pays dividends in the Scene II Pas de deux with its nascent little ceremonial outburst as indeed it does when depicting the escape music: flurry of strings and bristle of horns. Maybe the wittiest moments of all, and there are a few, come in Scene III’s Javotte concourt where the vibrancy and wit coalesce in a very special way – and one’s minds eye conjures the choreography with great immediacy. There’s a typical touch in Javotte, reine de la Danse with its delicate cello solo, not quite as evocative as The Swan, but in the same vein.

We finish with a brief example of Parysatis – a play staged in 1902 with incidental music written principally in Egypt the previous year. The brief seven minute snippet recorded here comprises the instrumental introduction and three ballet scenes – but enough to show his exotic way with the scoring and the fine brassy writing in the last of the scenes.

The performances are fully equal to the music’s demands, not that these are excessive. The Queensland Orchestra, under the increasingly visible figure of Andrew Mogrelia, plays with charm and no little verve when demanded.

Jonathan Woolf


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