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Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor (1872) [19:47]
Cello Concerto No. 2 in D minor (1902) [17:53]
La muse et le poète* (1909) [15:39]
Allegro appassionato (1873) [3:57]
Le Cygne (1886) from Le carnaval des animaux ** [2:31]
Natalie Clein (cello)
Antje Weithaas* (violin)
Julia Lynch (piano), Judith Keaney (piano) **
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Manze
rec. June 2013, City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
HYPERION CDA68002 [59:49]

Hyperion’s Romantic Cello Concerto series reaches its fifth release with this adventurous programme devoted to music by Saint-Saëns. These, from Natalie Clein and the BBC Scottish Orchestra on top form, are certainly memorable crisp and nicely nuanced performances and are comparable with the best.
The First Cello Concerto is justly famous for its thrusting excitement and lyricism as well as the enchantment that is the delicate central minuet. Clein and Manze go at the bravura opening with plenty of attack and point the daintiness of the minuet. The Second Concerto, conceived some thirty years later is quite different. This is a muscular demanding piece with numerous solo passages, tremendous leaps over two staves and lots of double-stopping. Clein really attacks it but also has plenty of sensitivity for the fine lyricism of the Andante sostenuto second half of the first movement. Saint-Saëns’ instrumentation for the accompaniment here is to be admired; especially the delicacy of the woodwinds. The relatively brief second movement has all the wildness of a runaway horse or train.
La muse et le poète was conceived during a holiday in Luxor, Egypt in December 1909. In reality it has little or nothing to do with a poet and his muse; its title was dreamed up by Saint-Saëns’ publisher to enhance its commercial value well after the composer had finished it. The composer himself described it as "a conversation between the two instruments instead of a debate between two virtuosos." It was premiered in London in 1910 with Eugene Ysaÿe (violin) and Joseph Hollmann (cello). It does not take much imagination to assume that the conversation could be between the apparent feminine sweetness of the violin and the gruffer deeper more masculine voice of the cello. The emotions run the gamut from tenderness to impatience to anger and pain. The work is most attractive and Natalie Clein and violinist Antje Weithaas enjoy every dramatic moment of this animated conversation.
The Allegro appassionato was originally conceived for cello and piano in 1873 then orchestrated three years later. This four-minute piece is a little gem — uncomplicated and rather gypsy. The concert is completed by another miniature, the famous The Swan from The Carnival of the Animals.
The useful liner-note, which is in English, French and German, is by Roger Nichols.
An altogether alluring collection.
Ian Lace
Other Volumes in the Hyperion Romantic Cello Concerto series
Vol. 1: Dohnanyi, Enescu, D'Albert (Gerhardt) CDA67544
Vol. 2: Volkmann, Dietrich, Gernsheim, Schumann (Gerhardt) CDA67583
Vol. 3: Stanford (Rosefield) CDA67859
Vol. 4: Pfitzner (Gerhardt) CDA67096