SAINT-SAËNS Chamber Music with Winds

Record and Artist Details

Genre:

Chamber

Label: Indesens

Media Format: CD or Download

Media Runtime: 122

Mastering:

DDD

Catalogue Number: INDE149

INDE149. SAINT-SAËNS Chamber Music with Winds

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
Septet Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Les Soloists de l'Orchestre de Paris
Romance Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Les Soloists de l'Orchestre de Paris
Tarantelle Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Les Soloists de l'Orchestre de Paris
(Le) Carnaval des animaux, 'Carnival of the Animals', Movement: The swan Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Les Soloists de l'Orchestre de Paris
(Le) Carnaval des animaux, 'Carnival of the Animals', Movement: Elephants Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Les Soloists de l'Orchestre de Paris
Cavatine Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Les Soloists de l'Orchestre de Paris
Caprice sur des airs danois et russes Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Les Soloists de l'Orchestre de Paris
Samson et Dalila, Movement: ~ Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Les Soloists de l'Orchestre de Paris
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Les Soloists de l'Orchestre de Paris
Prière Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Les Soloists de l'Orchestre de Paris
Sonata for Oboe and Piano Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Les Soloists de l'Orchestre de Paris
Odelette Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Les Soloists de l'Orchestre de Paris
Sonata for Bassoon and Piano Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Les Soloists de l'Orchestre de Paris
Fantaisie Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Les Soloists de l'Orchestre de Paris

The players of the Orchestre de Paris mark the centenary of Saint-Saëns’s death with a survey of his chamber works for wind instruments, some familiar, many of them less so, all of them immaculately done. Saint-Saëns wrote for wind throughout his career, often at times when doing so was considered unfashionable, and the set in some respects charts his development as a composer from his early fascination with Romanticism to the heightened classicism of his final years.

Some of the earlier pieces betray their influences too readily. The Op 6 Tarantella for clarinet, flute and piano (1857), for instance, owes much to Rossini, while the ravishing Op 36 horn Romance (1874, but reworking part of a cello suite from 1862) reveals Saint-Saëns’s fondness for Schumann. The classical streak in his temperament eventually surfaced, however, in the Trumpet Septet of 1880, a pivotal work that both looks back to 18th-century models, most notably his beloved Rameau, and forwards to 20th-century neoclassicism, Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin in particular. The whole of the second disc, meanwhile, is taken up with music from the last two years of Saint-Saëns’s life, when he embarked upon a series of sonatas that was to remain incomplete as a set, though the three that we have are remarkable for their formal elegance and melodic refinement. Many of the shorter pieces here are slight, though none of them lacks charm. There are also a handful of transcriptions: the versions of ‘Le cygne’ for contrabassoon and flugelhorn, won’t, I’m afraid, eclipse the cello original.

The performances are impeccable, admirably understated, beautifully focused and balanced, and only showy on the rare occasions when the music really demands it. The Septet is gracious, energetic and even-handed, with the trumpet (Frédéric Mellardi, clear and poised) very much an ensemble player, and some lovely, detailed counterpoint from the strings. Pianist Laurent Wagschal, commanding yet subtle, really makes his mark here, as he does with many of the shorter pieces. André Cazalet sounds very svelte in the horn Romances, and the Tarantella, with Wagschal, flautist Vincent Lucas and clarinettist Olivier Derbesse, is an absolute delight. The three of them are joined by oboist Alexandre Gattet for the big Caprice on Russian and Danish Airs, written in 1887 in honour of the Danish-born Tsarina Maria Fedorovna, a reined-in performance that makes a stronger case for the work itself (no masterpiece) than the more extrovert flamboyance of Pavel Kolesnikov and the Orsino Ensemble for Chandos last year (5/21).

Pascal Godart takes over as pianist for the sonatas, his reflective playing contrasted with Wagschal’s more extrovert brilliance. He’s paired with Gattet, decorous and suave, for the Oboe Sonata, another work at times reminiscent of Ravel, and with Marc Trénel, eloquent, lyrical and wryly humorous for its bassoon equivalent. Philippe Berrod joins Godart for a performance of the Clarinet Sonata that is exceptionally beautiful, if notably elegiac, particularly in its troubled and troubling Lento, which seems to belie Saint-Saëns’s much repeated dictum that composers should keep personal emotion out of their music: whether you prefer the equally wonderful but altogether starker approach of Michael Collins and Noriko Ogawa here (BIS, 9/21) is ultimately a matter of taste. It all adds up to a lovely set, beautifully done, and highly recommended.

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