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Camille SAINT-SAňNS (1835Ė1921)
Chamber Music
CD 1
Septet in E flat major for piano, trumpet, two violins, viola, cello and double bass, Op 65 (1880) [16'34]
Tarantelle in A minor for flute, clarinet and piano, Op 6 (1857) [6'22]
Bassoon Sonata in G major, Op 168 (1921) [12'04]
Piano Quartet in B flat major, Op 41 (1875) [29'51]
CD 2
Piano Quintet in A minor, Op 14 (1855) [30'32]††
Oboe Sonata in D major, Op 166 (1921) [11'05]†
Clarinet Sonata in E flat major, Op 167 (1921) [15'57]†
Caprice sur des airs danois et russes for piano, flute, oboe and clarinet, Op 79 (1887) [10'51]
The Nash Ensemble
Septet: Ian Brown (piano); Mark David (trumpet) Marianne Thorsen (violin); David Adams (violin); Lawrence Power (viola); Paul Watkins (cello); Duncan McTier (double bass)
Tarantelle: Philippa Davies (flute); Richard Hosford (clarinet); Ian Brown (piano)
Bassoon Sonata: Ursula Leveaux (bassoon); Ian Brown (piano);
Piano Quartet: Ian Brown (piano); Marianne Thorsen (violin); Lawrence Power (viola); Paul Watkins (cello)
Piano Quintet: Ian Brown (piano); Marianne Thorsen (violin); Benjamin Nabarro (violin); Lawrence Power (viola); Paul Watkins (cello); Benjamin Nabarro (violin);
Oboe Sonata: Gareth Hulse (oboe); Ian Brown (piano)
Clarinet Sonata: Richard Hosford (clarinet); Ian Brown (piano);
Caprice: Ian Brown (piano); Philippa Davies (flute); Richard Hosford (clarinet); Ian Brown (piano); Gareth Hulse (oboe)
Recorded in Henry Wood Hall, London, on 15Ė17 and 28Ė30 July 2004
HYPERION CDA67431-2 [65'04 + 68'40]


Camille Saint-SaŽns is one of those composers whose fame now rests largely if not exclusively on just a small number of works, the Symphony No. 3 ĎOrganí, Symphonic Poem, Danse macabre and The Carnival of the Animals. From an early age, Saint-SaŽns composed prolifically and seemingly without effort. He once said. "I produce music like an apple tree produces apples." Throughout his long life of eighty-six years, Saint-SaŽns wrote in all genres, including symphonies, concertos, sacred and secular choral music, thirteen operas, chamber music, numerous songs and solo pieces for piano and organ.

When Saint-SaŽns was born in Paris in 1835 Mendelssohn had twelve more years to live. When he died in Algiers in 1921 Stravinskyís Rite of Spring was already eight years old. Sadly by the time of his death Saint-SaŽnsí popularity in France had diminished significantly. Around the time of the Great War public taste in music had changed. However the music of the multi-talented Saint-SaŽns has for a number of years been undergoing a welcome resurgence to which the Hyperion label have significantly contributed thanks to their award winning set of The Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra recorded in 2000-01 by Stephen Hough and the CBSO under Sakari Oramo on CDA67331/2. One only has to hear the Piano Trios Nos. 1 and 2 by the Joachim Trio on Naxos 8.550935 to be aware of the many magnificent scores that await general discovery.

Thankfully this captivating new release will go some way to further promote the case. This generous and captivating selection, spanning sixty-four years, is outstanding and must surely be one of my records of the year.

Saint-SaŽns frequently wrote for the instrumental forces available to him. The set opens with a rare Septet for trumpet, string quintet and piano. The score is from 1880 and was the result of a playful commission from a chamber music society known as ĎLa Trompetteí. It is a jaunty work embracing seventeenth-century dance forms within a neo-classical style. Perhaps fortunately, the composer appears never to have fulfilled his original promise to the society to compose a piece for guitar and thirteen trombones. What wonderful and expressive writing ... and the ensemble play with a passionate lyricism and a sureness of tone throughout.

The early Piano quintet in A minor from 1855 exudes a youthful confidence and swagger, the piano part leading the way, while the quartet quickly established itself as a staple of the repertory. The piano plays a dominant virtuoso role, often in opposition to the string quartet, but also engaging in dialogue, ensemble, contrapuntal and unison passages. This a compelling performance with rhythmic intensity and superb attention to detail.

The Piano Quartet in B flat major Op 41 dates from 1875. This quartet was actually Saint-SaŽnsí second complete piano quartet. In 1851Ė3 he had written a Piano Quartet in E major which he performed but which was not published until it was recently resurrected and published in 1992.

The Piano Quartet continues to be a core work in the repertoire for violin, viola, cello and piano and this glorious performance is stylish and vibrant.††

In 1921, the last year of his life, Saint-SaŽns set out to compose sonatas for each of the main woodwind instruments and piano. Those for cor anglais and flute were never written, but Saint-SaŽns wrote the three Sonatas for oboe, bassoon and clarinet. The wonderful Tarantelle for flute, clarinet and piano was composed in 1857. A Caprice sur des airs danois et russes for piano, flute, oboe and clarinet (1887) delightfully combines Danish and Russian themes. The sonorities of piano and wind instruments conclude the programme. One is in awe at the composerís ability to write with such attractive character, musical variety and impeccable charm. The soloists offer fresh, thoughtful and invigorating accounts that serve the composer admirably throughout.

The sound quality from the Hyperion engineers is of the highest standard as are the booklet notes by Sabina Teller Ratner.†

A wonderfully presented release that is highly recommended. One of my records of the year.

Michael Cookson



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