Chamayou Dazzles in Saint-Saëns

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Ever since my colleague Jed Distler raved about Bertrand Chamayou’s remarkable release of Liszt’s complete Années de pèlerinage, I have been following his career on disc with great interest. This latest release sustains Mr. Distler’s high opinion of him without question. These have been oodles of Saint-Saëns piano concerto recordings turning up recently, many of them very good indeed. It’s not difficult music to play well, but it is difficult music to play spectacularly well, and that is what Chamayou does here. The effortless technique and willingness to (seemingly) throw caution to the breeze without ever sounding ragged or out of control make the finales of both concertos thrilling from start to finish–that of the “Egyptian” Concerto especially.

Granted, there are a couple of moments when the sheer joy in digital dexterity may shortchange some of the music’s humor–I’m thinking of the Big Tune in the scherzo of Piano Concerto No. 2–but such reservations are minor, and very rare. Chamayou weds intelligence to his virtuosity: consider the masterfully shaped first movement of the Second Concerto as a case in point. Moreover, Emmanual Krivine is much more than just an accompanist, shaping the orchestral parts with firmness, character, and an equal amount of swashbuckling verve. In short, this is a partnership that suits the music ideally, and the result is extremely satisfying as well as just plain fun.

But wait–there’s more! Chamayou also offers scintillating accounts of a selection of Saint-Saëns’ still-too-little-known solo works: four etudes (Opp 52 Nos 2 and 6, and 111 Nos 1 and 4), a mazurka (Op. 66 No. 3), the Allegro appassionato Op. 70, and a wonderfully droll concluding Valse nonchalante (op. 110). Listen to the evocative Etude Op. 111 No. 4 “Les Cloches de Las Palmas,” and you’ll wonder where this music has been all your life. Even if you’ve had enough of the two concertos, you really should add this disc to your collection.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None for this coupling

    Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 5 "Egyptian"; Solo piano works (4 Etudes, Mazurka, Allegro appassionato, Valse nonchalante)

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