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Camille SAINT-SAňNS (1835-1921)
Complete Works for Cello and Orchestra
Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33 (1872) [19:29]
Cello Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 119 (1902) [19:33]
Suite in D minor for cello and orchestra, Op. 16 (1862) [19:34]
Romance in F major for cello and orchestra, Op. 36 [3:09]
Allegro appassionato for cello and orchestra, Op. 43 [3:49]
The Swan from: ĎThe Carnival of the Animalsí arr. cello and orchestra [3:42]
Johannes Moser (cello)
Radio Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR/Fabrice Bollon
rec. 27-30 June 2007, Funkstudio, Stuttgart, Germany. DDD



Experience Classicsonline

These scores, with the exception of Cello Concerto No. 1 and the highly popular score The Swan are rarely heard in the concert hall, which is a shame given the high quality of craftsmanship.

These may be Moserís first recordings made with an orchestra but he is no stranger to the recording studio having made three separate Hšnssler Classic discs of cello sonatas: Shostakovich; Weinberg and Boris Tchaikovsky on CD 93.176 that won an Echo Klassik Award 2007; Brahms; Fuchs and Zemlinsky on CD 93.206 a winner of Echo Klassik Award 2008 and Brahms; Richard Strauss and Herzogenberg on CD 93.207.

Saint-SaŽns composed several works for the cello and his Concerto No. 1 is the first and finest of his two concertos. It is rightly regarded as one of the best loved cello concertos in the repertoire. The sunny and colourful score is compact in structure and plays in one continuous movement with three distinct sections. Moser describes the work: ďFrom a technical point of view, the first is relatively easy to master, with forceful, rousing Romantic gestures allowing the soloist and orchestra to shine in equal portions.Ē Moser provides a dramatic interpretation of the stormy Allegro non troppo while the attractive main theme is beautifully played. The yearning Allegretto con moto is especially movingly performed and the buoyancy of the closing Allegro section with its dazzling Coda provides a stunning conclusion to this magnificent score. At times Moserís playing reminded of the enviable qualities of the Paul Tortelier. Throughout the score the accompaniment is always elegant and rousing when required. 

The Cello Concerto No. 2 was composed in 1902, for the Dutch cellist Joseph Hollmann, some thirty years after the First. The themes are not acknowledged as having the memorability of its predecessor and consequently it has been greatly overshadowed by the initial attractiveness of the earlier score. This notwithstanding, the D minor Concerto is greatly admired by cellists and provides the soloist with considerable technical challenges. Cast in four parts, the score is presented in two large sections. Johannes Moser finds the work ďÖ more complex in many ways. For instance, the cellist must manage difficult passages with double stops right at the beginning. Nor does the composer make it easy for the performer in terms of expression, since it demands a stylistic balancing act between a classical understanding of music and a neo-Romantic gesture; what is more, the form is not so homogenous and as easy to understand as the first concertoĒ. 

In the opening† Allegro moderato e maestoso Moser provides playing of splendour; so comfortingly rich and warm. It is mpressive how Moser imparts a deep meditative quality to the Andante sostenuto. The Allegro non troppo is played with a hectic and restless quality and high forward momentum. Moser is enthralling in the Cadenza and the spirited Molto allegro is extrovertly played to bring an exultant conclusion. I noted that the often densely textured orchestral accompaniment was stunningly played by the Stuttgart players. 

Composed in 1862 the Suite in D minor is in five brief and appealing movements. The Suite at just under twenty minutes lasts a similar length to the two cello concertos. Biographer Michael Steinberg has written that the Suite, ďÖ is generally regarded as the first work in which an individual and identifiable Saint-SaŽns voice can be heard.Ē In the D minor Suite Moser conveys a shadowy mood in the Prelude. I enjoyed the soloistís emphasis on the dance-like qualities of the Serenade and I was struck by the breezy effervescence of the Scherzo. In the fourth movement Romance Moser communicates a languid feel and the Finale is lively and vivacious. 

Saint-SaŽns originally wrote his short Romance in F major, Op. 36 for cello (or horn) and piano in 1874. The Romance is presented here in the version for cello and orchestra. Affectionately handled by Moser this undemanding score with its light and charming melody has been described as suitable for the Parisian salon. Rather than the version for cello and piano Moser has chosen this one for cello and orchestra.

The single movement Allegro appassionato, Op. 43 was composed in 1873 and has become a staple of the cello repertoire. It seems that the moderate technical challenges presented by this brief score have made it a popular choice of young cellists in competitions and recitals. More frequently heard in the version for cello and piano this arrangement is a lesser heard gem. Despite the undemanding nature of the Allegro appassionato Moser exercises the utmost care yet makes this an energetic and carefree interpretation.

Saint-SaŽns deliberately avoided publishing ĎThe Carnival of the Animalsí. Realising the sheer charm of the score Saint-SaŽns did not wish to be remembered only for this work, fearing that his reputation as a serious composer would be affected. Of the fourteen movements Saint-SaŽns permitted only the penultimate movement The Swan to be published in his lifetime. Not surprisingly this attractive score has achieved great popularity. In this arrangement for cello and orchestra the music so convincingly evokes a swan gliding graceful over the still water. With The Swan Moser lets himself go with unashamedly heart-on-sleeve playing that enchants and delights from start to finish. 

A showpiece work the Saint-SaŽns Cello Concerto No. 1 has been recorded many times over the years. Consequently there are several excellent versions established in the catalogues by many of the worldís finest performers, for example: Jacqueline Du Prť with the Philadelphia Orchestra/Barenboim on EMI; Pierre Fournier with the Lamoureux Orchestra of Paris/Martinon on DG; Lynn Harrell and the Cleveland Orchestra/Marriner on Decca; JŠnos Starker with the London Symphony Orchestra/Dorati on Mercury; Yo Yo Ma with the French National Orchestra/Maazel on Sony; Mstislav Rostropovich with the London Philharmonic Orchestra/Giulini on EMI and Paul Tortelier with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Frťmaux on EMI. The Cello Concerto No. 2 has fared less well in the studios and consequently recordings, not to mention sets containing both concertos, are much harder to find in the catalogues. 

Of the more recent recordings of both the A minor and D minor I greatly admire the versions from Steven Isserlis, for his noble expression and firm control, on BMG/RCA Red Seal (82876-65845-2). Using different orchestras and conductors Isserlis recorded the Cello Concerto No. 1 in 1992 with the London Symphony Orchestra under Michael Tilson Thomas and the Concerto No. 2 in 1999 with NDR Sinfonieorchester under Christoph Eschenbach. The same version from Isserlis of the A minor is also available on a separate disc on RCA Victor Red Seal, with a different coupling, of other Saint-SaŽns scores with cello (09026-61678-2). Another recent version of the two Cello Concertos that I have enjoyed for the beautiful playing and considerable assurance is from Jamie Walton and the Philharmonia Orchestra under Alex Briger on Quartz (QTZ2039). Although rather eclipsed by the general quality of the rival versions cellist Maria Kliegel plays both Concertos with expression and commitment with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta under Jean-FranÁois Monnard for Naxos (8.553039).

Early last year I was entranced by the freshness of the sensitive and characterful artistry of a new recording of the Cello Concerto No. 1 performed by Sol Gabetta with the MŁnchner Rundfunkorchester under Ari Rasilainen on BMG/RCA Red Seal.

On the evidence of this disc Moserís is a name to watch and his future success seems guaranteed. Displaying a secure technique and rich timbre this charismatic artist, in these delightful interpretations, expertly mixes a generous palette of tone colours. Particularly impressive is the iron grip that he exercises over the proceedings. I experienced these bold performances as a fruitful emotional encounter with Saint-SaŽnsís richly appealing music. I have never heard the Radio Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR under the assured direction of Fabrice Bollon in finer form. Their sensitive, yet robust accompaniment is of the highest quality.

The Hšnssler engineers have provided a warm and clear sound. In the booklet notes there is an interesting interview with the soloist but as is often the case a little more information about the actual works would have been helpful. For example we are not informed in every case who made the arrangements. Received too late for one of my Ď2008 Records of the Yearí this Hšnssler disc from Johannes Moser is the first of my selections for 2009.

Michael Cookson

Recommended Saint-SaŽns Recordings

Other highly recommendable Saint-SaŽns recordings that I have come across in recent years are the following:

The acclaimed 1959 recording of the celebrated Symphony No. 3 ĎOrganí from Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony Orchestra on RCA Red Seal SACD 82876-61387-2 RE1

Stephen Houghís award-winning set of The Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra from 2000-01 with the CBSO under Sakari Oramo on Hyperion CDA67331/2

The Violin Concertos Nos.1 & 3; Introduction et Rondo capriccioso and Havanaise performed by Kyung Wha Chung with various orchestras and using conductors: Lawrence Foster and Charles Dutoit. Recorded 1974/80 on Decca 460 008-2

String Quartets No. 1 & 2; Violin Sonatas No. 1 & 2 and Violin pieces by Quatuor Viotti & Olivier Charlier (violin) & Jean Hubeau (piano). Recorded 1984/87 on Warner Classics Apex 2564 61426-2

Septet; Tarentelle; Bassoon Sonata; Piano Quartet; Piano Quintet; Oboe Sonata; Clarinet Sonata & ĎCaprice sur des airs danois et russesí by members of the Nash Ensemble. Recorded 2004 on Hyperion CDA67431-2

Messe de Requiem, Op.54 and Part Songs by various soloists, Coro della Radio Svizzera, Lugano & Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana/Diego Fasolis. Recorded 2001 on Chandos CHAN 10214.
Piano Trios No.1 & 2 performed by the Joachim Trio. Recorded 1993 on Naxos 8.550935.

The Scandinavian label BIS has embarked on a substantial new series of Saint-SaŽns works. I especially enjoyed their disc of the violin concertos including other orchestral works from French violinist and conductor Jean-Jacques Kantorow and the Tapiola Sinfonietta on BIS BIS-CD-860; BIS-CD-1060 and BIS-CD-1470



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