Notes and Editorial Reviews
Carnival of the Animals gains by being played in its original chamber form, as here, where the exquisite scoring of the ''Aquarium'' is clearer and the parodies in ''Fossils'' sound more spontaneous. Highly pleasurable.
It is unsurprising that an age which lauds some composers who are conspicuously devoid of technique should try to denigrate someone like Saint-Saens, whose masterly craftsmanship sometimes ran ahead of the quality of his material—by no means always, however, and in the realms of chamber music he produced a large number of skilfully written and attractive works disparaged only by those who demanded profundity and/or complexity in everything. It was with such people in mind, presumably, that he
forbade the performance in his lifetime of what is now his most popular composition, the Carnival of the animals (whose musical wit needs no adventitious spoken humorous commentaries). Usually heard in an orchestral version, it in fact gains by being played in its original chamber form, as here, where the exquisite scoring of the ''Aquarium'' is clearer and the parodies in ''Fossils'' sound more spontaneous. The pianos here are balanced a little too strongly vis-a-vis the accompanying octet, and the flute in the ''Aviary'' is somewhat brightly spotlit, but otherwise the work is well recorded, and the wide stereo image allows effective antiphonal braying in ''Long-eared creatures''. The initial march is taken ponderously slowly, not emphasizing the lion's majesty so much as detracting from the realism of its roar, par contre, the ''Wild asses'' tear by at a frantic speed. The pauses between the sections seem unnecessarily long—as they do also in the Caprice, a rather insubstantial piece written while the composer was on a Russian concert tour (the association of Russian and Danish themes was because the Empress Maria Feodorovna was the daughter of the King of Denmark): it is beautifully played by Postnikova and the wind trio.
The Wedding cake is a charming little concertante written for one of his pupils on her marriage, and here receives a delicately fluent performance from Heisser and a solo string group: the earlier Septet for the extremely unusual combination of trumpet, piano and five strings is rather longer distinctly neo-classical in style (with even a Minuet as second movement) and with a gavotte-based finale whose perky good humour is irresistible. By sensitive playing the present artists avoid turning the work into a trumpet concerto, which is usually its fate. Lightweight music, yes, but highly pleasurable.
-- Lionel Salter, Gramophone [4/1993]
Works on This Recording
Carnival of the animals by Camille Saint-Saëns
Viktoria Postnikova (Piano),
Jean-François Heisser (Piano)
ORTF Philharmonic Orchestra members
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