Saint-saëns

BBC Music Magazine - - Concerto -

Pi­ano Con­certo No 2 in G mi­nor; Pi­ano Con­certo No. 5 in F ma­jor; Al­le­gro ap­pas­sion­ato, Valse non­cha­lante, etc.

Ber­trand Chamayou (pi­ano); Orchestre Na­tional de France/ Em­manuel Kriv­ine

Erato 9029563426 77:52 mins Saint-saëns is still un­fairly ne­glected for be­ing su­per­fi­cial, sug­gests Ber­trand Chamayou in his book­let note for his lat­est al­bum. Look be­yond the Car­ni­val of the An­i­mals and you’ll find that Saint-saëns is the nat­u­ral link be­tween Liszt and Ravel. It’s an in­tel­lec­tual po­si­tion borne out by Chamayou’s play­ing – fluid, thought­ful, flam­boy­ant and pre­cise – on this en­joy­able record­ing of the com­poser’s most pop­u­lar pi­ano con­cer­tos, the Se­cond and Fifth.

It ‘be­gins like Bach and ends like Of­fen­bach’ is the com­ment al­most al­ways rolled out for the Se­cond Con­certo of 1868, but only be­cause it’s spot-on. Chamayou wisely doesn’t worry about stylis­tic co­her­ence, but in­stead em­pha­sises the dis­tinct char­ac­ters of each of the move­ments.

We step into an im­pres­sive Baroque cathe­dral of sound in the open­ing An­dante sostenuto, but it’s the Al­le­gro scherzando and Presto move­ments that re­ally play to Chamayou’s fleet-fin­gered strengths. The nim­ble­ness and flu­id­ity of his play­ing is re­mark­able. It’s a zingy per­for­mance all round, with a vig­or­ous per­for­mance from the Orchestre Na­tional de France, con­ducted by Em­manuel Kriv­ine.

The Egyp­tian Fifth Con­certo (1896 ) also has all the right ingredients, al­though the per­for­mance doesn’t soar in quite the same way. But Chamayou’s se­ri­ous ap­proach is an ef­fec­tive foil to the score’s ex­oti­cisms

– he de­scribes it as an ‘Ori­en­tal­his­pano-chi­nese mash-up’ – and pre­vents them from sound­ing too twee to con­tem­po­rary ears.

The record­ing is rounded off with a hand­ful of solo pieces, cho­sen to high­light the artis­tic pre­oc­cu­pa­tions of a com­poser who was born in Paris and died in Al­giers. There are some beau­ti­ful gems here. Re­becca Franks PER­FOR­MANCE RECORD­ING

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