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Saint-saens: Complete Chamber Music With Winds

Saint-saens / Wind Soloists Of Orchestra Paris
Release Date: 10/12/2010 
Label:  Indesens   Catalog #: 21   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Laurent WagschalOlivier DerbesseVincent LucasYves d'Hau,   ... 
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 54 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

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SAINT-SAËNS Complete Chamber Music with Winds Members of the Paris O INDÉSENS 021 (2 CDs: 114:26)

Septet, op. 65. Romance for Horn and Piano, op. 36. Tarantelle for Read more Clarinet, Flute, and Piano, op. 6. The Carnival of the Animals: “The Swan”; “The Elephant.” Romance for Flute and Piano, op. 37. Cavatine for Trombone and Piano, op. 144. Romance for Horn and Piano, op. 67. Caprice on Danish and Russian Airs, op. 79. Samson et Dalila: My Heart Opens up to the Sound of Your Voice. Clarinet Sonata, op. 167. Prayer for Bassoon and Piano, op. 158. Oboe Sonata, op. 166. Odelette for Flute and Piano, op. 162. Bassoon Sonata, op. 168

This is a companion release to Indésens’s two-CD set of Poulenc’s chamber music for winds reviewed elsewhere. But for the addition of Yves d’Hau on contrabassoon and a rotation of pianists, the same Paris Orchestra players are featured here as in the Poulenc collection. This time “complete” appears to mean what it says, for I believe the headnote does include all of Saint-Saëns’s chamber works with winds, and then some. Inclusion of the two numbers from The Carnival of the Animals —“The Swan,” originally for cello, played on a double bass, and “The Elephant,” originally for double bass, played on a contrabassoon—as well as the transcription for bassoon of the second-act aria from Samson et Dalila basically comes under the category of “let’s do it because it sounds like fun, and besides, Saint-Saëns wouldn’t have minded.” Perhaps not, but it does seem a bit silly, especially in the case of The Swan on a double bass. This is, after all, supposed to be a collection of wind works, and the last time I checked the double bass wasn’t a member of the wind family. The other transcriptions can at least be justified on grounds that they are for wind instruments.

Well, enough of that. Everything else in this compilation, with but one exception, is fairly familiar, having been well documented on record. The one item you will not find listed under Saint-Saëns’s chamber music is Odelette , and that’s because it’s actually a short work for flute and orchestra. The arrangement for flute and piano heard here was made by the composer, but it’s rarely recorded, the original orchestral version being preferred.

The E?-Major Septet for string quartet, double bass, trumpet, and piano is one of Saint-Saëns’s most delightful chamber works. My introduction to it came via a 1977 EMI recording with Maurice André, Michel Beroff, Jean-Philippe Collard, and company. It’s still available by special order from ArkivMusic and as an import from Amazon. It includes a spirited performance of The Carnival of the Animals in a chamber rather than full orchestra version. Unfortunately, besides the short playing time, the sound quality of the recording was not great to begin with and more recent releases have eclipsed it. When EMI tried again in 2003 with Michel Dalberto, Frank Braley, and the Capuçon brothers, the company not only added much more music to the disc but produced a much better-sounding recording. The Nash Ensemble has also made a couple of runs at the piece, once for Virgin Classics and then in 2004 for a two-disc Hyperion compilation of Saint-Saëns’s chamber works.

The highly unusual instrumentation of the Septet, which calls for a trumpet that sticks out like a sore thumb in what is otherwise a work for strings and piano, has a simple explanation. The piece was commissioned by Emile Lemoine on behalf of a chamber-music society calling itself “La Trompette.” The Septet, like a number of other works by the composer, takes the form of a neobaroque suite with a good deal of contrapuntal calisthenics. The current performance featuring trumpeter Frédéric Mellardi is the best I’ve heard yet. Its frivolity and mock earnestness are maintained in perfect balance by fluid playing and a detailed, transparent recording.

The Caprice on Danish and Russian Airs is another of Saint-Saëns’s chamber works that gained a good deal of popularity, so much so that he arranged it for two pianos. The original scoring is for flute, oboe, clarinet, and piano. It was a wilted wedding bouquet delivered to the Danish princess several years after her marriage to the Czar of Russia. Perhaps Saint-Saëns was miffed that he hadn’t been invited to the royal nuptials.

In the last year of his life, 1921, Saint-Saëns composed three sonatas for wind instruments, one each for oboe, clarinet, and bassoon. Interestingly, just a few years earlier, in the last years of his life, Debussy had also planned a cycle of sonatas, six in all, the last three of which were to have been for oboe, horn, and harpsichord; for trumpet, clarinet, bassoon, and piano; and a final sonata that would have included all the instruments from the five earlier sonatas. Unfortunately, he died before these last three were realized. Only the first three—for cello and piano; for flute, viola, and harp; and for violin and piano—were written. Some 40 years later, another major French composer, Poulenc, would also pen his valedictory with four works for winds—three sonatas for clarinet, flute, and oboe, and the Élegie for horn. The 100-year span between Saint-Saëns’s earliest works on this release and the last works by Poulenc represents a golden age in the production of French music for wind instruments, an age encompassed by composers such as Fauré, Debussy, Ravel, Ibert, d’Indy, and Françaix.

There are, to be sure, other collections that cover just Saint-Saëns’s chamber works with winds or a mix of wind and non-wind works to be considered, including the Nash Ensemble’s two-CD offering on Hyperion, reviewed in Fanfare 29:1, and an excellent single CD featuring the Ensemble Villa Music on MDG. But none is better played than this one featuring principals from the Paris Orchestra, and none is as inclusive. If you’d like to have all of Saint-Saëns’s chamber works with winds, including some that have been transcribed from other sources, and all together on just two discs, I can think of no better way to acquire them. Excellent performances and recording as well add up to a strong recommendation.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Septet for Piano, Trumpet, String Quartet and Double Bass in E flat major, Op. 65 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Laurent Wagschal (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1881; France 
Length: 17 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Tarantella for Flute, Clarinet and Orchestra, Op. 6 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Olivier Derbesse (Clarinet), Vincent Lucas (Flute), Laurent Wagschal (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857; France 
Length: 6 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Carnival of the animals: no 13, The swan by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Yves d'Hau (Contrabassoon), Laurent Wagschal (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; France 
Length: 2 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Carnival of the animals: no 5, Elephants by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Yves d'Hau (Contrabassoon), Laurent Wagschal (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; France 
Length: 1 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Romance for Flute and Orchestra in D flat major, Op. 37 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Vincent Lucas (Flute), Laurent Wagschal (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; France 
Length: 6 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Cavatine for Trombone and Piano in D flat major, Op. 144 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Guillaume Cottet-Dumoulin (Trombone), Laurent Wagschal (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1915; France 
Length: 4 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Romance for Horn and Piano in E major, Op. 67 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  André Cazalet (French Horn), Laurent Wagschal (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1885; France 
Length: 6 Minutes 51 Secs. 
Caprice on Danish and Russian Airs for Piano and Winds, Op. 79 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Laurent Wagschal (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; France 
Length: 10 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Samson et Dalila, Op. 47: Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Marc Trenel (Bassoon), Laurent Wagschal (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; France 
Length: 2 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in E flat major, Op. 167 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Philippe Berrod (Clarinet), Pascal Godart (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1921; France 
Length: 15 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Prière for Violin/Cello and Organ, Op. 158 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Marc Trenel (Bassoon), Laurent Wagschal (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1919; France 
Length: 5 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Sonata for Oboe and Piano in D major, Op. 166 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Alexandre Gattet (Oboe), Pascal Godart (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1921; France 
Length: 11 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Odelette for Flute and Orchestra, Op. 162 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Laurent Wagschal (Piano), Vincent Lucas (Flute)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1920; France 
Length: 6 Minutes 52 Secs. 
Sonata for Bassoon and Piano in G major, Op. 168 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Marc Trenel (Bassoon), Pascal Godart (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1921; France 
Length: 5 Minutes 43 Secs. 
Romance for Cello and Piano in F major, Op. 36 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Laurent Wagschal (Piano), André Cazalet (French Horn)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; France 
Length: 3 Minutes 32 Secs. 

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