son of a French colonial planter and
a Senegalese slave, seems to have been
a "Jack of all trades". Apparently
he was an athlete, swordsman, military
commander, huntsman, violin virtuoso
and conductor (directing the first performances
of Haydnís Paris Symphonies in
1787) - but was he a master composer?
As this disc is the only evidence currently
available to me, I shall reserve judgment
on that for the present. However, I
should say straightaway that this music
is certainly worth an airing. Here it
is beautifully played and this disc
is a joyful listening experience.
concertos might seem to be standard
fare. All have three movements with
the main meat in the first, followed
by a slow interlude and quick finale.
They are neither tonally ambitious nor
particularly virtuosic but are highly
melodious and the work of an individual
voice. In the context of the 1770s,
these concertos seem at least as interesting
as Haydnís C major concerto (Hob.VIIa:1)
written in 1769, though not quite at
the level of inspiration of Mozartís
five concertos (written between 1773-5).
Allan Badley, the author of excellent
notes in the booklet for this disc,
speculates that Mozart might have heard
Saint-Georges play his Concerto No.
10 when he was in Paris in 1778 (and
feels sure that the great composer would
have heard much to admire).
One interesting feature
of this music is that none of the movements
on this disc finishes forte or
louder - the music reaches a natural
conclusion without emphasis. There are
few (if any) climaxes, just a stream
of ideas skillfully interwoven between
soloist and orchestra. I have no idea
if Paganini (who was born in 1782) was
ever exposed to this composerís music
but I found a kinship and suspect that,
if you like Paganiniís concertos, these
will also appeal. For me, No. 10 is
the pick of the bunch but they are all
most attractive works.
The Chinese violinist,
Qian Zhou, is no more familiar to me
than the composer was but, again, I
was impressed. She was a child prodigy
who came of age in 1987 on winning the
Marguerite Long/Jacques Thibaud competition
in Paris. She produces beautiful tone
and her playing of these concertos is
most cultured. There is excellent support
from the Toronto Camarata under Kevin
Mallon and they are very naturally recorded.
Add to this a high standard of presentation
and the low cost, and just what are
you waiting for? Iím off to check out
the first disc in the series (played
by different forces) which somehow seems
to have passed me by.
Naxos have done it
again Ė this label is "Jack of
all kinds of interesting music youíve
never heard before" and master
of the irresistible bargain.
Patrick C Waller
see also review
by Jonathan Woolf