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Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835–1921)
Violin Concerto No.3 in B minor, Op.61 (1880) [25:12]
Caprice d’aprčs l’Étude en forme de Valse for violin
and orchestra, Op.52 (1877) (arrangement by Eugčne Ysa˙e)
Caprice andalous for violin and orchestra, Op.122
Prélude from ‘Le Déluge’ for string orchestra,
Op.45 (1876) [6:34] *
Valse-Caprice (Wedding Cake) for piano and
string orchestra, Op. 76 (1886) [6:12] *
Allegro appassionato for piano and orchestra, Op.
70 (1884) [6:01] *
Kantorow (violin), Heini Kärkkäinen (piano)
Tapiola Sinfonietta/Kees Bakels, Jean-Jacques Kantorow*
rec. September 2004, Tapiola Concert Hall, Finland. DDD
BIS CD-1470 [61:43]
This CD follows two earlier Saint-Saëns BIS releases
from the same forces featuring the first two violin concertos
and other shorter works (CD-860: Concerto 1 and CD-1060: Concerto
2 - see review).
Saint-Saëns lived to the ripe old age of eighty-six. I am always
astounded that when he was born in 1835, Mendelssohn had still
more years to live and Bernstein had been born three
years before Saint-Saëns died in Algiers in 1921. The fame
now rests largely if not exclusively on just a small
number of works, notably the Symphony No. 3 ‘Organ’ and
also the Symphonic Poem: Danse macabre and
the Carnival of the Animals. From an early age
he composed prolifically and seemingly without effort
said. "I produce music like an apple tree produces
apples." Throughout his long life he wrote in
virtually all genres, including thirteen operas, symphonies,
sacred and secular choral music, chamber music, numerous
songs and solo pieces for piano and organ.
Sadly by the time of his death his popularity in France
had diminished significantly; around the time of the
Great War the public’s
taste in music changed. Interest in the music of Saint-Saëns
has for a number of years been undergoing a welcome resurgence.
However there is still a large body of sacred and secular
choral scores and other stage works that appears to have
been ignored both in performance and the recording studio.
For those who wish to sample some of his finest works
I recommend: the acclaimed 1959 recording of the celebrated Symphony
No. 3 ‘Organ’ from Charles Munch and the Boston
Symphony Orchestra on RCA Red Seal SACD 82876-61387-2
RE1; the award-winning complete works for
piano and orchestra from
2000-01 played by Stephen Hough and the CBSO under Sakari
Oramo on Hyperion CDA67331/2; the Cello Concertos
Nos. 1 and 2 plus three other Saint-Saëns cello scores
with Steven Isserlis as soloist from 1992-99 on RCA Red
65845 2 and the Violin Concertos Nos.1 and 3; Introduction
et rondo capriccioso and Havanaise performed
by Kyung Wha Chung with various orchestras and using
Lawrence Foster and Charles Dutoit on Decca 460 008-2.
I still treasure my 1982 vinyl recording of the Piano
Concerto No.2 from soloist Cécile Ousset with the
CBSO under Simon Rattle on EMI ASD 4307 c/w Liszt Piano
Concerto No. 1.
I understand that this Cécile Ousset recording with the
same coupling has been released on CD on EMI CDC7472212,
but I have not been able to track down a copy.
One only has to hear Saint-Saëns’s two Piano Trios from
the Joachim Trio on Naxos 8.550935; the two String Quartets from
the Medici Quartet on Koch Schwann 3-6484-2 and the Messe
de Requiem, Op. 54 conducted by Diego Fasolis on
Chandos CHAN10214 to be aware of the many magnificent,
scores that await general discovery.
The main work on this release is the popular Violin Concerto
One is immediately struck by the determined and securely
robust character of Kantorow’s playing. The interpretation
is certainly not an essay in saccharine and sentimentality
yet he convincingly captures an atmosphere of sun-drenched
warmth. The opening pages of the Allegro non troppo are
performed with passion and a gypsy-like feel. Especially
impressive is the judicious tempo and weight of tone.
I also really enjoyed the swift and highly exciting extended coda.
In the Andantino quasi Allegretto the orchestral
accompaniment is superb, for example at 1:16 the brief
solo parts for the
woodwind. The highly attractive and memorable principal
theme in the Andantino is the highpoint of the
score. The extended closing movement opens with a gypsy-like
on the violin and with the brilliant theme at 1:06 Kantorow
is assured and robust. A master-stroke from the composer
is the stark change of mood to a lyrical chorale with
muted strings at 3:43-5:15. From 9:06 Kantorow and Bakels
rapidly builds the music to a brilliant and breathtaking
From my collection I consider three recordings of the Violin
Concerto No. 3 as confident recommendations. My first choice
account is the warmly expressive and superbly controlled,
evergreen 1974 London performance by Kyung Wha Chung
with the LSO under Lawrence Foster on Decca 460 008-2. I am
also fond of the passionately lyrical 1989 New York
from Gil Shaham and the New York Philharmonic under
Giuseppe Sinopoli on Deutsche Grammophon 429 786-2 c/w Paganini Violin
Concerto No. 1. Another interpretation that I have
had in my collection since its release is the 1982
Abbey Road account, impressive for its radiant
of tone and colour from Cho-Liang Lin and the Philharmonia
Orchestra under Michael Tilson Thomas on Sony Classical
SMK 66935 c/w Cello Concerto No. 1 (Yo Yo Ma)
Concerto No. 2 (Cécile Licad). The recording by
Ulf Hoelscher on EMI (5710012) is not one I know, but
it was well received by my colleague Rob Barnett (see review).
The Caprice d’aprčs l’Étude en forme de Valse for violin
and orchestra was
arranged by the Belgium violinist Eugčne Ysa˙e from one
of the cycle of six études for solo piano. Saint-Saëns
clearly approved of Ysa˙e’s arrangement as he requested
his publisher to include the score in his catalogue of
The music in this interpretation from Kantorow is excitable
and amatory, almost flirtatious but always enthralling.
It is not difficult to imagine the animated Ysa˙e with
his tousled mop of dark hair and flowing coat tails performing
to an adoring Paris audience.
From 1904 the Caprice andalous for violin and orchestra is
a substantial single movement score that Kantorow reveals
as enchanting, calming and gratifying. The music between
3:47-5:04 noticeably develops a clear flavour of exotic
Spanish rhythms that are evident throughout the work. At 6:51
pace intensifies and Kantorow provides a rapid-fire bravura
display to the conclusion.
In the final three works the Prélude from ‘Le Déluge’ for
string orchestra, Op.45; the Valse-Caprice (‘Wedding
Cake’) for piano and string orchestra, Op.
76 and the Allegro appassionato for piano and orchestra,
Op. 70 Jean-Jacques Kantorow takes up the baton with
Heini Kärkkäinen as the soloist in the two piano scores.
The orchestral prelude for strings is all that is heard today
of the neglected 1876 oratorio Le Déluge, written
to a Louis Gallet text. I have a reference book written
in the 1960s that puts forward that the Prélude from ‘Le
Déluge’ as one of Saint-Saëns most popular
compositions. Looking at the very small number of recordings
and its rare appearances in concert programmes I’m not
sure that this is now still the case.
In the Prélude I was at points 0:33 and 1:55 strongly
reminded of J.S. Bach’s Musical Offering, BWV
1079. The piece contains a substantial and poignantly
affecting melody for
the solo violin at 3:38-6:30 which lies at the heart
of the score. We are not told who takes the solo violin
it is Kantorow who is conducting the Tapiola Sinfonietta.
In this score, performed here with considerable affection
and an undercurrent of reverential spirituality, it is
easy to imagine being sat inside a beautiful and historic
looking upwards in awe at the splendour.
The Valse-Caprice (‘Wedding Cake’) was
composed in 1886, the same year as the Carnival of
wrote this as a wedding present for his friend Caroline
de Serres. Melodious and joyous the piano of Heini Kärkkäinen
plays almost continuously throughout.
The final work on this release is the Allegro appassionato
for piano and orchestra that Saint-Saëns composed in
1884 shortly after his fifth opera Henry VIII.
use of energetic and flowing arpeggios is evident
throughout. I loved the way soloist Kärkkäinen communicates
a restrained passion through this attractive and tender
score. The Allegro appassionato is clearly a
love letter from Saint-Saëns expressed through his
sound quality from the BIS engineers is clear and well
balanced, and the booklet notes are pretty good too, adding
to the attraction
of this collection. The featured work the Violin Concerto
No. 3 is well performed,
however, the competition is extremely fierce.
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