Notes and Editorial Reviews
6 Etudes for Left Hand
Geoffrey Burleson (pn)
GRAND PIANO 601 (67:27)
Here we have a truly extraordinary disc, more for the specific kind of music it is than for any particular genius of interpretation. Saint-Saëns’s etudes are among the most difficult and demanding piano music ever written, nearly Lisztian in their demands on
the performer. Nor are they, like the Chopin etudes, tuneful or musically interesting enough as a whole to play as concert pieces. This makes them something of a curiosity in the piano literature, and thus it is indeed fascinating to hear them all.
Geoffrey Burleson certainly has an ironclad technique, which is fortunate because the first and third etudes of the op. 52 (as with others in all three series) are so fiendishly difficult that only a master technician would have the temerity to perform them in public. Oddly, as the series progresses, the music occasionally becomes more melodic and accessible, like the Prelude and Fugue in A (No. 5), but the first series ends with yet another staccato finger-buster.
The etudes for left hand alone are, of course, the least appealing as music, but of course they weren’t intended as concert pieces. Here, Burleson attempts to leaven their pedagogic purpose by playing them rather lightly, with an occasional lilt at the end of phrases and touches of rubato, and he manages to make No. 4 (the Bourée) sound not only musically interesting but, through much of it, lightly dancing and lyrical.
Burleson, for whom this is apparently Vol. 1 of a complete series of Saint-Saëns’s solo piano works, has the usual dazzling technique, straight-ahead style, and exuberance that so many young pianists today possess. Whether or not this recording appeals to you will undoubtedly have much to do with whether or not you are dazzled by digital dexterity on the keyboard and not necessarily by musical content. (It is the kind of record that, if I were a professional pianist and had the music in front of me, I’d listen to it and think, “Oh! So that’s how it’s supposed to go. Oh well!”) There are other recordings to choose from, including the opp. 52 and 111 etudes only by Lee Mee Chou on MD&G 6040590, and all three sets plus the
, op. 97, by Piers Lane on Hyperion 67037. The latter has received excellent reviews. The choice is yours.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
Etudes (6) for Piano, Op. 52 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Geoffrey Burleson (Piano)
Written: 1877; France
Etudes (6) for Piano, Op. 111 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Geoffrey Burleson (Piano)
Written: 1899; France
Etudes (6) for Piano left hand, Op. 135 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Geoffrey Burleson (Piano)
Written: 1912; France
6 Etudes, Op. 52: No. 1. Prelude: Con bravura
6 Etudes, Op. 52: No. 2. Pour l'independence des doigts: Andantino malinconico
6 Etudes, Op. 52: No. 3. Prelude and Fugue in F minor: Prelude: Allegro
6 Etudes, Op. 52: No. 3. Prelude and Fugue in F minor: Fugue: Animato
6 Etudes, Op. 52: No. 4. Etude de rythme: Andantino
6 Etudes, Op. 52: No. 5. Prelude and Fugue in A minor: Prelude: Allegro moderato
6 Etudes, Op. 52: No. 5. Prelude and Fugue in A minor: Fugue: Moderato
6 Etudes, Op. 52: No. 6. En Forme de Valse
6 Etudes, Op. 111: No. 1. Tierces majeures et mineures: Allegretto
6 Etudes, Op. 111: No. 2. Traits chromatiques
6 Etudes, Op. 111: No. 3. Prelude and Fugue: Prelude: Moderato agitato
6 Etudes, Op. 111: No. 3. Prelude and Fugue: Fugue: Moderato espressivo
6 Etudes, Op. 111: No. 4. Les Cloches de Las Palmas: Andantino
6 Etudes, Op. 111: No. 5. Tierces majeures chromatiques
6 Etudes, Op. 111: No. 6. Toccata d'apres le Final du cinquieme Concerto: Molto allegro
6 Etudes, Op. 135: No. 1. Prelude: Allegretto moderato
6 Etudes, Op. 135: No. 2. Alla Fuga: Allegro non troppo
6 Etudes, Op. 135: No. 3. Moto perpetuo: Allegretto-Doux et tranquille
6 Etudes, Op. 135: No. 4. Bourree: Molto allegro
6 Etudes, Op. 135: No. 5. Elegie: Poco adagio
6 Etudes, Op. 135: No. 6. Gigue: Presto
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Two Extraordinary Pianists: Burleson and Saint-Sa April 5, 2012
By Jon Appleton (White River Junction, VT) See All My Reviews
"If you love piano music, this recording is not to be missed. The extraordinary pianist Geoffrey Burleson offers the first CD of the complete piano works of Camille Saint-Saëns. The recording is devoted to etudes composed between 1877 and 1922. Six are for left hand alone. Like much of Saint-Saëns voluminous work, the quality of the works is uneven. At their best, the etudes rival Chopin and Scriabin. Mixed among the etudes are delightful fugues (Op. 52, Nos. 3 and 5, Op. Op. 111, No. 3) and the amazing one for the left hand alone (Op. 135). As an aside, listeners may also be unaware of the fugues Saint-Saëns's friend Edvard Grieg composed ten years earlier.
Burleson's stunning technique is fully demonstrated in the devilish etude (Op. 52, No. 6) reminiscent of Franz Liszt. I especially enjoyed the sensitive and lyrical etude "Les cloches de la Palmas: Andantino" (Op. 111, No. 4). The tour de force is the "Toccata d'apres le Final du 5e Concerto" (Op. 111, No. 6). "