SAINT-SAËNS Piano Concertos 1 & 2 (Alexandre Kantorow)

Record and Artist Details

Genre:

Orchestral

Label: BIS

Media Format: Super Audio CD

Media Runtime: 85

Mastering:

DDD

Catalogue Number: BIS2400

BIS2400. SAINT-SAËNS Piano Concertos 1 & 2 (Alexandre Kantorow)

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Alexandre Kantorow, Piano
Jean-Jacques Kantorow, Conductor
Tapiola Sinfonietta
Wedding Cake Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Alexandre Kantorow, Piano
Jean-Jacques Kantorow, Conductor
Tapiola Sinfonietta
Allegro appassionato Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Alexandre Kantorow, Piano
Jean-Jacques Kantorow, Conductor
Tapiola Sinfonietta
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Alexandre Kantorow, Piano
Jean-Jacques Kantorow, Conductor
Tapiola Sinfonietta
Rapsodie d'Auvergne Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Alexandre Kantorow, Piano
Jean-Jacques Kantorow, Conductor
Tapiola Sinfonietta
Africa Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Alexandre Kantorow, Piano
Jean-Jacques Kantorow, Conductor
Tapiola Sinfonietta

The prospect of a recording of any of Saint-Saëns’s works for piano and orchestra is always a delightful one. You know you are in for an hour or more of music that lifts the spirits with its joie de vivre and inexhaustible supply of memorable ideas. The prospect is enhanced, on this occasion, by the same soloist, orchestra and conductor who gave us Concertos Nos 3, 4 and 5 back in the long-ago pre-pandemic days, a superb disc that won the accolade of an Editor’s Choice (6/19).

This one should be heading the same way, despite some reservations about the first movement of Piano Concerto No 2. Of course, there is more than one way of interpreting such requests as andante sostenuto and ad libitum (for the solo passage that begins the work) and crotchet=54 (for the orchestra’s entry), but the Kantorows, father and son, take both sections far too ponderously. Perhaps Alexandre had been playing too much Brahms (I note that the G minor Concerto was the only work here recorded in 2021; the remainder come from sessions in 2018 and 2020). Also, after the cadenza, at 8'06" the piano hits a low octave B natural followed by a semiquaver rest. In what might be an editing error the music simply stops; four bars later, there is a right-hand octave onslaught marked agitatissimo. It certainly is not that here. The end result is a first movement that lasts nearly two and a half minutes longer than benchmark accounts by Darré, Hough, Chamayou and young Benjamin Grosvenor. The popular Scherzo movement is superb, and the finale is taken at an exciting true presto (though there is an unscheduled meno mosso adjustment at 2'02", just after fig D).

None of these moments is significant enough to mar one’s enjoyment of the music-making. Quite the opposite. There is a palpable exuberance and joy in the way these works come across, none more so in the four concertante works for piano and orchestra, the effervescent Wedding Cake caprice, Rhapsodie d’Auvergne (an early use of French folk song, years ahead of d’Indy and Canteloube), Allegro appassionato (not the better-known work for cello with the same title) and Africa (who else was using North African folk music at this time?).

The album also includes the woefully neglected Piano Concerto No 1, with its opening horn call reminding us of the end of Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto. If the rousing finale doesn’t hook you, then try the haunting slow movement with its prescient passages not only of its successor but of the kind of impressionistic writing that anticipates Ravel by half a century.

It’s a terrific programme – unique for a single disc, so far as I know – clocking in at 85 minutes, and another feather in the cap of the gifted soloist and his partners. The recording offers an exemplary balance between piano and orchestra in a realistic acoustic, and comes with a good booklet – but was the original version of the Second Concerto really for pedal piano?

Explore the world’s largest classical music catalogue on Apple Music Classical.

Included with an Apple Music subscription. Download now.

Gramophone Print

  • Print Edition

From £6.87 / month

Subscribe

Gramophone Digital Club

  • Digital Edition
  • Digital Archive
  • Reviews Database
  • Events & Offers

From £9.20 / month

Subscribe

Gramophone Reviews

  • Reviews Database

From £6.87 / month

Subscribe

Gramophone Digital Edition

  • Digital Edition
  • Digital Archive

From £6.87 / month

Subscribe

                              

If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to Gramophone please click here for further information.