Saint-Saëns's Shorter Orchestral Works
The Gramophone Choice
Danse macabre in G minor, Op 40. Phaéton in C, Op 39. Le rouet d’Omphale in A, Op 31. La jeunesse d’Hercule in E flat, Op 50. Marche héroïque in E flat, Op 34. Introduction and Rondo capriccioso in A minor, Op 28*. Havanaise in E, Op 83*
*Kyung-Wha Chung vn *Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Philharmonia Orchestra / Charles Dutoit
Decca 425 021-2DM (66‘ · ADD). Buy from Amazon
It’s enough to make you weep – Saint-Saëns wrote his first tune at the age of three, analysed Mozart’s Don Giovanni from the full score when he was five, and at 10 claimed he could play all Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas from memory. There’s some consolation that, according to a contemporary, physically ‘he strangely resembled a parrot’, and perhaps even his early brilliance was a curse rather than a blessing as he regressed from being a bold innovator to a dusty reactionary. In his thirties (in the 1870s) he was at the forefront of the Lisztian avant-garde. He was the first Frenchman to attempt Liszt’s new genre, the ‘symphonic poem’, bringing to it a typically French concision, elegance and grace. Charles Dutoit has few peers in this kind of music; here’s playing of dramatic flair and classical refinement that exactly matches Saint-Saëns’s intention and invention. Decca’s sound has depth, brilliance and richness.