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Saint-Saëns: Cello Sonatas no 1 & 2, etc / Kliegel, et al

Release Date: 01/30/2007 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557880   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Maria KliegelFrançois-Joël Thiollier
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SAINT-SAËNS Cello Sonatas: No. 1 in c; No. 2 in F. Suite for Cello and Piano Maria Kliegel (vc); François-Joël Thiollier (pn) NAXOS 8.557880 (77:32)

It has been previously noted that Saint-Saëns’s four major works for cello were composed more or less in tandem pairs. 1872–73 saw the twin births of the C-Minor Sonata, op. 32, and the A-Minor Concerto, op. 33. The composer was approaching 40 at the time; yet for a man who lived to 86, these may still be regarded as fairly early works. Not Read more until nearly 30 years later did Saint-Saëns turn again to the cello, this time composing in reverse order the D-Minor Concerto, op. 119, in 1902, followed in 1905 by the Sonata in F Major, op. 123.

My only grumble about Jamie Walton’s Saint-Saëns CD (reviewed in 29:6) was that had he omitted “The Swan” movement from The Carnival of the Animals , there would have been just enough room on the disc to include the Second Sonata, thereby giving us all four of the composer’s major works for cello on a single disc. It turns out that in writing that review, I overlooked the even earlier, but hardly insignificant, 1862 Suite for Cello and Piano, op. 16, which, at 23 minutes’ duration, is even longer than the First Sonata and certainly qualifies as a “major” work.

With the current release, cellist Maria Kliegel and pianist François-Joël Thiollier fill in the blanks, offering us, along with the C-Minor Sonata, the earlier Suite and the later F-Major Sonata, both of which were absent from Walton’s entry. The juxtaposition of these works on the same disc affords us the opportunity to hear for ourselves the evolution, both professional and personal, of a man whose interior life may have been more complex than received opinion about him has otherwise led us to believe.

The five-movement Suite makes no pretense to a refracted antique or neo-Baroque style—as some of the composer’s early works do—despite note writer Keith Anderson’s assertion that its Prelude loosely resembles the arpeggio Praeludium of Bach’s G-Major Solo Cello Suite. Saint-Saëns’s Suite is an ardent, effusive romantic outpouring that has more in common with the young, though never youthful, Brahms than it has with anything from an earlier time.

The C-Minor Sonata, though coming 10 years after the Suite, is all surface Sturm und Drang somewhat reminiscent of Mendelssohn. It was works such as this that earned Saint-Saëns his reputation as an arch-conservative in thrall to German models and aesthetics.

The F-Major Sonata, written when he was 70, has clearly evolved away from the composer’s earlier, more immediately recognizable profile. Though still adhering to the principles of sonata form, the piece has about it a more through-composed feeling that is carried forward by a gorgeous rippling piano part rather in the manner of the composer’s own student, Fauré. More significant, however, is the genuine expressiveness and depth of the music, which clearly belie the notion that Saint-Saëns was but an extremely gifted tunesmith and facile craftsman with an uncanny instinct for writing music devoid of any meaningful substance.

Maria Kliegel can be heard in a wide range of repertoire that she has recorded for Naxos; with over 50 entries in their catalog, she is perhaps the company’s leading “stable” cellist, a term that unfortunately carries certain uncomplimentary connotations. Be assured that in Kliegel’s case they are not deserved, for she is a fantastic player with solid technique, spot-on intonation, and robust tone, which she projects with a great deal of confidence and authority. If her delivery is not quite as smooth and refined as that of the aforementioned Jamie Walton, my sense is that she wants us to perceive Saint-Saëns as both more serious and more substantive than he is often taken to be.

François-Joël Thiollier has also recorded extensively for Naxos, having made a specialty of the French piano repertoire. His partnering with Kliegel is a natural. For the excellent performances, fine sound, budget price, and smart programming, I’m inclined to call this disc indispensable for lovers of chamber music for cello and piano.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Cello and Piano no 1 in C minor, Op. 32 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Maria Kliegel (Cello), François-Joël Thiollier (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1872; France 
Venue:  DeutschlandRadio, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 21 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Notes: DeutschlandRadio, Cologne, Germany (09/28/2004 - 10/01/2004) 
Suite for Cello and Piano, Op. 16 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  François-Joël Thiollier (Piano), Maria Kliegel (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862; France 
Venue:  DeutschlandRadio, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 23 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Notes: DeutschlandRadio, Cologne, Germany (09/28/2004 - 10/01/2004) 
Sonata for Cello and Piano no 2 in F major, Op. 123 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Maria Kliegel (Cello), François-Joël Thiollier (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1905; France 
Venue:  DeutschlandRadio, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 32 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Notes: DeutschlandRadio, Cologne, Germany (09/28/2004 - 10/01/2004) 

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