Camille SAINT-SAENS(1866-1924) Complete Piano Works - 2
Allegro (after the Third Concerto, op.29) [10:19]
Piano Suite in F, op.90 (1891) [11:10]
Allegro Appassionato in C sharp minor, op.70 (1884) [5:44]
Thème Varié, op.97 (1894) [6:56]
Six Fugues, op.161 (1920) [19:51]
Geoffrey Burleson (piano)
rec. Patrych Sound Studios, New York, October 2011. DDD
GRAND PIANO GP605 [53:38]
HNH International, the company behind Naxos, launched their
new Grand Piano label in March 2012. This included the first
of five volumes of Camille Saint-Saëns' piano music, in
Geoffrey Burleson's complete cycle of the solo works. Grand
Piano promise "the exploration of undiscovered repertoire",
and volumes to date of music by Christian Neefe, Joachim Raff,
Alexander Tcherepnin, Miecysław Weinberg and Gerhard Frommel
indicate a promising trajectory. On the other hand, the label
intends to specialise in complete cycles, which will inevitably
add in a few better-known works, such as the brilliant Allegro
Appassionato and the magical Piano Suite, in this
second volume dedicated to Saint-Saëns.
For this attractively coherent follow-up Burleson has grouped
together works of a Classical or Baroque orientation, colourfully
re-imagined by Saint-Saëns in a more contemporary cast.
Though his unerringly lyrical, unpretentious solo piano music
has been largely sidelined by the feckless fashions of history,
Saint-Saëns was considered one of the finest pianists and
organists of his or any time. Not every musician, therefore,
is up to the often prodigious demands of his music, at their
most demanding on this disc in the Allegro op.29, Saint-Saëns'
inspired transcription-plus of the first movement of his Third
Piano Concerto. Not all the items here are unremittingly virtuosic,
but whatever the music, Burleson proves over and again he has
the technique and poetic phraseology to make light of any and
all complex passages. Moreover, unlike some, he possesses a
delicacy of touch that prevents fortissimo or sforzando
chords from ever sounding sledge-hammered.
Burleson also has experience. As an American, his discography
focuses not unnaturally on the music of his compatriots, from
Roy Harris's complete piano pieces on Naxos - admittedly barely
a CD's worth, but still enthusiastically received (review)
- to the underrated Arthur Berger on Centaur (review).
Perhaps most impressively, Burleson recently tackled the twelve
mainly mid-twentieth-century and highly imaginative Piano Sonatas
of Vincent Persichetti for the New World label (review).
This CD is produced by Burleson himself with one of America's
finest independent producers, Joseph Patrych, at the latter's
own studios in New York. Sound and general production quality
are first-rate, although the recordings have been made at quite
a soft level. The accompanying booklet is glossy, neat and concise,
with English-French notes by Burleson well written, detailed
and informative. The reproduction on the cover is part of a
series of paintings by the Norwegian artist Gro Thorsen. How
the 'untitled' man ambling off connects with Saint-Saëns'
music is not clear, but the collectability of Thorsen's artwork
does make up for the short running time.
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