Still More Excellent Saint-Saëns Piano Concertos

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 10

We seem to be undergoing a Saint-Saëns piano concerto bonanza, and this excellent disc could well take pride of place had it not been for Louis Lortie’s Chandos recordings, which are just that much finer still. The outstanding performances here are the Fourth and Fifth Concertos, the former cogently shaped and urgently projected, especially in the work’s latter stages. Alexandre Kantorow respects the music’s basic sobriety but still endows the outbursts of virtuosity with appropriate élan and sparkle. I can’t think of many performances of the second movement that make the music sound more purposeful.

In the “Egyptian,” Kantorow’s intelligent handling of the exotic arabesques in the second movement is both beautiful and tasteful, but in this same movement the Tapiola Sinfonietta under the elder Kantorow can’t compare in rhythmic bite and weight of sonority with the BBC Philharmonic under Edward Gardner for Lortie. Still, this account of the dashing finale has plenty of fire, if not quite Lortie’s daredevil excitement.

The Third Concerto, for some reason, lacks a bit of atmosphere at the opening–perhaps Kantorow is just a bit too reticent, even though he’s accompanying the orchestra–and the main theme of the finale is oddly accented, but otherwise there’s little to complain about. Gorgeous engineering makes this a disc well worth considering if you collect these works (and you should).

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Lortie (Chandos)

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