"I strongly recommend this beautifully played disc of rare music, and donít miss the original version of Danse Macabre..." Robert Matthew-Walker, International Record Review
"The peformances are warmly affectionate, beautifully played and flattered by the rich-textured surround sound." Ivan March, Gramophone
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During a career spanning three-quarters of a century, Saint-Saëns in his youth earned the admiration of Berlioz, yet he out-lived Debussy. Like so many of the world's great composers, Saint-Saëns took to music almost from the cradle. By the age of six he was writing songs and piano pieces and at ten he was playing Mozart and Beethoven piano concertos in public. His prowess on the organ led to an early appointment at the Church of the Madeleine, where he was to occupy the post of organist for nearly twenty years. As a student he wrote four symphonies, two of which received performances, and in the 1860s he turned to the stage, although of his thirteen operas only Samson and Delilah has held a place in the repertoire.
Liszt's tone-poems inspired Saint-Saëns to produce a number of highly colourful orchestral works of his own-Danse macabre being the most popular-and his vast output included five piano concertos, in each of which he appeared as a highly successful soloist. He was concerned to maintain the serious side of his output and would have been horrified at the success of The Carnival of the Animals, in his view a "private joke" which was not published in full until after his death (only The Swan saw the light of day during the composer's lifetime; it can now be heard in a specially-commissioned arrangement played by the forty-strong London Cello Orchestra on Cala Records CACD0104).
Saint-Saëns's own musical credo was summed up as follows: "The artist who does not feel completely satisfied by elegant lines, harmonious colours and a beautiful succession of chords does not understand the art of music." Although not all his music reaches the heights of inspiration, many of the orchestral works in particular are clearly scored by the hand of a master.
Africa—Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra, Op.89
Gwendolyn Mok piano
Parysatis—Airs de ballet
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La jota aragonese, Op.64
Saint-Saëns (arr. Luigini)
Samson and Delilah—Grand Fantasy
Gwendolyn Mok piano
Taranatelle for Flute, Clarinet and Orchestra
Susan Milan flute, James Campbell clarinet
Sarabande for Violin and String Orchestra
Tina Gruenberg violin
Danse macabre, Op. 40
Anthony Roden tenor
Marche militaire française
from Suite algérienne, Op.60
The Muse and the Poet, Op.132
for Violin, Cello and Orchestra
Valse—Finale from Ascanio