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Saint-Saens: Complete Piano Concertos / Malikova, Sanderling

Saint-saens / Malikova / Sanderling / Wdr So
Release Date: 05/25/2010 
Label:  Audite   Catalog #: 91650   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Anna Malikova
Conductor:  Thomas Sanderling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Multi 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
SuperAudio CD:  $29.99
In Stock



Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

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SAINT-SAËNS Piano Concertos Nos 1–5 Anna Malikova (pn); Thomas Sanderling, cond; WDR SO Cologne AUDITE 91.650 (2 SACDs: 140:13)


Every review I have seen of a complete set of the Saint-Saëns piano concertos comments on the surprising lack of wider appeal to performers and Read more audiences of this music for all but the Piano Concerto No. 2. I can only add my voice to the choir; this is all wonderful music. The variety of texture, mood, and dramatic structure is really quite remarkable, and the technical quality of the writing ranks with the best of the 19th century. The music does not have the depth of Beethoven and Brahms, it is true, but it is certainly not cold or overly showy. I am especially fond of the Piano Concerto No. 1, with its beautifully prominent writing for the horn. Saint-Saëns got the bum rap in his own day, and continues to in our time, but it is not deserved.


The question becomes not whether or not to own a recording of this music, but which set to buy. Classic recordings by Rogé and Collard are available on budget reissues, and the king of the heap, both interpretively and in terms of expense, is Stephen Hough’s 2002 transversal as a part of Hyperion’s massive Romantic Piano Concerto survey. There are few pianists on the scene today who match his magical combination of virtuosity, elegance, and insight. That said, I am quite smitten by this new release. Anna Malikova is a late product of the mighty Soviet music-making machine, although the empire was crumbling just as she was graduating from the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in 1991, where she studied with Lev Naumov. Her playing is bold and colorful, very attuned to the character of the music, which some (including myself) consider hallmarks of the Russian school of pianism. I would have to concede the last degree of nimbleness to Hough, and his set does include another 15 minutes of Saint-Saëns bonbons. But Malikova’s playing is a bit more, well, playful, making this a highly seductive collection. The regional German orchestra plays beautifully under the direction of Thomas Sanderling. Yes, he is the son of Kurt Sanderling, the great German-born conductor who spent most of his career in Russia, where Thomas was born.


The icing on the cake, always with the Audite label, is the recorded sound, which is robust yet naturally balanced. I can really hear the advantage of SACD sound when listening to Audite releases, although the audio is nearly as good on standard CD playback.


FANFARE: Peter Burwasser


Review of Concertos 1, 2 & 4 from ClassicsToday.com:

We badly need a first-rate Saint-Saëns piano concerto cycle in modern sound. I know that this may be a minority view, but I found Stephen Hough's Hyperion edition unsatisfying both interpretively and technically. The best overall remains Jean-Marie Darré's mono EMI set from the mid-1950s, and I'm happy to report that this newcomer, if it stays true to form, will offer an essential complement to that classic (and hard to find) set. You might say that Sanderling and Malikova take a more "German" or "symphonic" approach to the music, but never to the point of heaviness. Indeed, at tempos very marginally slower than the norm, Malikova uses the extra time to point her phrases and inflect the music's singing lines with exceptional poise and genuinely French elegance and grace.

Take, for example, the popular central scherzo of the Second Concerto, with its delicious interplay between soloist and orchestra. Every exchange between them registers with maximum color in a genuine dialog, while the concluding tarantella has power as well as the necessary swiftness. Malikova's right hand floats the melodies over her rock-solid left, generating excitement with no trace of glibness. I also very much like the darkness that she and Sanderling bring to the first movement of the Fourth Concerto, a tough work to hold together, but that here seems to grow with organic inevitability as well as an unusual amount of emotional depth. The second movement has particular cogency, with Malikova clearly making an effort to characterize each episode, building the work to an unusually satisfying conclusion.

She also makes a persuasive case for the neglected First Concerto (actually the largest of these three), aided in no small degree by a conductor clearly aware of the music's debt to Beethoven and Mozart. There are no "dead spots" here. Malikova's treatment of the Andante has great fluidity and poise, while the finale offers high spirits with no hint of shallowness. Listen to the way Malikova holds her own against the orchestra in the big chords that comprise the opening theme: that's exactly what this music needs--players who really dig in and take it seriously. A co-production with WDR, the sonics are ideally warm and well balanced, the piano tone gleaming. In multi-channel format there's no loss of impact, and there's greater front-to-back depth. An outstanding disc in every way--I eagerly look forward to Volume 2!

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

Review of Concertos 3 & 5 from ClassicsToday.com:

This second installment in Audite's complete series of Saint-Saëns piano concertos completes what easily is the finest modern reference edition for these beautiful, underrated works. As in the previous release, Anna Malikova displays all of the classical virtues that the composer requires: gleaming tone, polished scales, shapely phrasing, and most of all, a light touch that makes whatever tempos she chooses flow effortlessly. On the whole, these versions are a bit slower than the classic performances by Jeanne-Marie Darré on EMI, but Thomas Sanderling's leadership is so probing and detailed, so refreshingly respectful of the text yet never inflated, that the performances are as valuable for what he brings to the party as they are for Malikova's contributions.

Take the Third Concerto: is there any more beautiful opening in the entire literature? How marvelously Sanderling and Malikova underline the music's romantic poetry, only to follow that evocative introduction with the most cogent allegro on disc! In the andante, Malikova's ability to float the music across the bar lines makes you think of Mozart, an apt comparison in my view, since Saint-Saëns often combines grace and poise with sweet (but never cloying) lyricism in equal measure. The finale, a brilliant trip to a French music hall, sparkles with delightful detail, but also has sufficient weight to bring the entire work to an immensely satisfying conclusion. Why isn't this piece ever played? I just don't understand it.

I have to confess that I have a special fondness for the "Egyptian" Concerto (simply called No. 5 here--no reason to be embarrassed, folks!). It's a piece that should seem to play itself, but it conceals a host of difficulties for the soloist. For example, in the first movement all of those simple phrases, lyrical bits tied together by rippling scales, have to go (as Mozart said) "like oil". Malikova's supple fingers float over the keyboard like palm fronds wafting down the Nile, and she captures the exoticism and mystery of the second movement without ever overdoing the Orientalism. Part of her secret comes from always knowing the difference between mere filigree and what really matters melodically. Notice also in this same movement how cleanly Sanderling has the strings articulate the opening rhythm: it comes across as an indistinct mush in most other performances. The scintillating finale has a sense of swagger that I haven't heard since Madga Tagliaferro's mono recording for Philips, and once again I doff my hat to Sanderling for giving Malikova enough time to really articulate the fistsful of notes.

Sonically this is state-of-the-art. Audite has captured a totally realistic balance between soloist and orchestra, ideally clean and clear. Notice how the woodwinds in the finales of both concertos engage Malikova in characterful interplay, and in multichannel playback the rear channels add depth without ever suggesting the instruments are placed behind the listener. I look forward to years of pleasure living with these performances, and I can't recommend them highly enough. They really do set a new standard for performances of these works, and even if you know them well you will come away from this disc more impressed with the music than you probably thought possible.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano no 1 in D major, Op. 17 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Anna Malikova (Piano)
Conductor:  Thomas Sanderling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1858; France 
2.
Concerto for Piano no 2 in G minor, Op. 22 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Anna Malikova (Piano)
Conductor:  Thomas Sanderling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868; France 
3.
Concerto for Piano no 3 in E flat major, Op. 29 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Anna Malikova (Piano)
Conductor:  Thomas Sanderling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1869; France 
4.
Concerto for Piano no 4 in C minor, Op. 44 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Anna Malikova (Piano)
Conductor:  Thomas Sanderling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; France 
5.
Concerto for Piano no 5 in F major, Op. 103 "Egyptian" by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Anna Malikova (Piano)
Conductor:  Thomas Sanderling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; France 

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