Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

CAMILLE SAINT-SAENS 1835-1921 Violin Concerto No. 1 (1860) [13.37] Violin Concerto No. 2 (1858) [31.30] Violin Concerto No. 3 (1880) [30.17]   Philippe Graffin (violin) BBC Scottish SO/Martyn Brabbins HYPERION CDA67074 [75.41]
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This is a true 'collier charmant' of concertos. Trust Hyperion to launch the natural gemini to their Romantic Piano Concerto series with this, volume 1 of The Romantic Violin Concerto series. Balance is all in the Hyperion approach. So here we have the celebrity concerto partnered by two less known works: a logical choice to couple the first two concertos with No.3.

Witchery and charm are the dominant strata in these works. If you do not know them they have a gravity and aspirant beauty reminiscent of the Beethoven concerto. There is little of the nineteenth century exoticism of Bizet and a hundred other disciples: Franckian or otherwise. Things such as the Caprice Andalou, Havanaise, and introduction and Rondo Capriccioso are certainly hothouse works whereas these pieces inhabit a cooler moth-haunted twilight. These are works of classical poise and the classical element is well conveyed by the young French violinist. As for the Scottish orchestra we can expect the 'Auld Alliance' to ensure that there are no stylistic gear collisions in Gallic repertoire. Martyn Brabbins directs things with a nice balance of gravamen and flightiness. The technical side is well handled with plenty of aural muscle as well as subtlety.

The Bruch concertos make a similar project with in that case No. 1 as the star vehicle and the other two as the attractive companions. Of course the three Bruchs would never go on a single disc.

Is this the first time that all three Saint Saens concertos have been coupled together? I think so. What next after this auspicious 'embarquement'? Well how about the concertos of August de Boeck, Janis Ivanovs, Leroy Robertson, Giancarlo Menotti and Mieczyslaw Karlowicz: winners every one!

Recommended in every respect.


Rob Barnett


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