In 2001 APR reissued for the first time in long-playing format the complete flat disc recordings featuring composer Camille Saint-Saëns at the piano, coupled with those by Cécile Chaminade. Symposium now offers the same material minus one Saint-Saëns selection (the Havanaise Op. 83 with violinist Gabriel Willaume), but adds the five solo sides by Louis Diémer (1843-1919), a pianist best known as teacher to Alfred Cortot, Robert Casadesus, Marcel Dupré, Eduard Risler, Yves Nat, and countless others. Which edition to buy?
On one hand, APR's clean, skillful transfers, extensive annotations, discography, and "complete Saint-Saëns" factor sell themselves. On the other hand,Read more Symposium's noisier, relatively "non-interventionist" transfers give an impression of greater presence and amplitude. The bottom line is that these count among early recorded pianism's most fascinating and important documents. Although Saint-Saëns only recorded his own music, and mostly lightweight fare, his 1904 G&T sessions and 1919 Paris recordings reveal that the veteran musician still could tear up the keyboard. He often was criticized for being a cold and dry pianist, but evidently not on the recordings. Unbridled excitement characterize his improvised cadenza in Afrique Op. 89 and excerpts from the Second Concerto. The Rhapsodie d'Auvergne Op. 73 is represented by its final section, where the composer tosses off amazingly powerful and even unison scales and double thirds that would humble even today's budding virtuosos.
Four selections feature the composer's close associate mezzo-soprano Meyrianne Héglon. However, her warm, slightly heavy timbre is severely compromised by fuzzy, overmodulated sonics. Saint-Saëns' strong, authoritative support elevates the aforementioned Gabriel Willaume's straightforward, pure-toned interpretations of the Prelude from Le Déluge and the Elégie Op. 143. Likewise, Cécile Chaminade's seven 1901 G&Ts support the reputation she enjoyed as a pianistic firebrand. Her piano music may be light in content, yet it's skillfully crafted, idiomatically virtuosic, and full of charm. Chaminade plays her works absolutely straight, with an intensity and rhythmic drive that have nothing to do with the music's "salon-ish" connotations. For example, if you follow the score to Air de Ballet Op. 30, you'll hear that Chaminade really means the dynamics and expressive directions she writes.
Louis Diémer's solo recordings characterize the 19th-century French piano school's best aspects. Note the clarity, point, and control in rapid, detaché passages in Mendelssohn's Spinning Song and Godard's Valse chromatique, or the limpid pianissimo scales in Diémer's own, admittedly banal Grande Valse de Concert. Modern ears may not comfortably respond to Diémer's somewhat brusque and hard-nosed account of Chopin's D-flat Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2, yet it easily challenges any assumption that all 19th-century pianists took insane liberties with everything they played. All serious students of piano performance practice should investigate this release.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Le déluge, Op. 45: Preludeby Camille Saint-Saëns Performer:
Camille Saint-Saëns (Piano)
Period: Romantic Written: 1875; France Venue: Paris, France Notes: Paris, France (1904 - 1919)
Elegie for Violin and Piano, Op. 143by Camille Saint-Saëns Performer:
Camille Saint-Saëns (Piano),
Gabriel Willaume (Violin)
Period: Romantic Written: 1915; France Date of Recording: 1919 Venue: Paris, France
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