Märkl Manages Saint-Saëns Symphonic Poems

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 8

There is no truly great disc of the four Saint-Saëns symphonic poems. Perhaps the best of them is the old Pierre Dervaux on EMI, but something about the music has lead to it being treated very much as a sort of afterthought. Granted, there are some wonderful individual performances: Danse macabre from Ormandy, lots of nice versions of Le Rouet d’Omphale, and La Jeunesse d’Hercule, the largest of them all, tends to more or less play itself. But I have yet to hear a version of Phaéton with a really pulverizing thunderbolt climax, and this excessively swift performance certainly doesn’t make the best case for the piece.

Indeed, that one example of interpretive liberty aside, and it’s not a positive one, these are thoroughly ordinary but always competent versions. Märkl seems to have few ideas about the music, and no special points to make, though the results are pleasant enough. The couplings might make the disc more interesting, though they are not major pieces, and total playing time is still short of an hour. If you’ve already got the tone poems, either from Dervaux or Dutoit (next best), you’ll have no reason to give this release a second glance. If you’re new to the music, these performances don’t let down the show, but they don’t thrill either.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Dervaux (EMI/Warner)

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