Program 26
"Neglected Saint-SaŽns"


MUSIC: Saint-Saens: Carnival of the Animals: Introduction (excerpt) [Virgin Classics VC 7 90751-2, track 9] under the following:

Welcome to Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman.

It's ironic that the most famous piece written by French composer Camille Saint-SaŽns was his musical joke, Le Carnaval des animaux: Grande fantaisie zoologique (The Carnival of the Animals), which you hear in the background. Ironic because, except for the rather serious section, called "Le Cygne" ("The Swan"), he withdrew the piece after just a few performances and wouldn't allow it to be published until after his death in 1921. He evidently didn't want this auditory burlesque to interfere with his reputation as a serious composer.

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MUSIC: Saint-Saens: Carnival of the Animals: The Swan (excerpt) [Virgin Classics VC 7 90751-2, track 21] under the following:

"The Swan" was a hit from its first performance on March 9, 1886, and is arguably the most famous piece for cello ever written by anyone. And the rest of the composition is the funniest music I have ever heard, with or without the extra touch of clever wit sometimes added to the recordings by the poems of Ogden Nash.

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Although The Carnival of the Animals proved for all eternity that Saint-SaŽns had an excellent sense of humor, he was basically a no-tickling-allowed, conservative composer throughout most of his work. Some of his music is very well represented in the catalog of classical recordings. For example, I counted 35 performances of his Symphony No. 3 in C Minor - the "Organ" Symphony - in one CD catalog.

MUSIC: Saint-Saens: Symphony No. 3 (The "Organ" Symphony) (very brief excerpt of theme) [DGG 400 063-2, track 2]

The same catalog had 24 different recordings of the Halloween favorite Danse macabre.

MUSIC: Saint-Saens: Danse macabre (very brief excerpt of theme) [Erato ECD 55001, track 5]

There were 20 CDs of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor.

MUSIC: Saint-Saens: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor (very brief excerpt from theme) [EMI CDC 7 47816 2, track 1]

There were 17 recordings of the Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor.

MUSIC: Saint-Saens: Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor (very brief excerpt from theme) [DGG D 125383, track 5]

But, except for these pieces and a few other perpetually "popular" works, a large number of Saint-SaŽns' compositions are unjustly neglected these days.

For those who love sensual, romantic, melodious music, there is a veritable treasure trove of pieces by Saint-SaŽns which qualify as compact discoveries! Especially chamber music. And, as Gilbert & Sullivan would have put it, I've got a little list.

At the very top is the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 167. In the days of the long-playing record, I literally wore out my recording of this piece. I now own a Chandos CD featuring a British clarinetist with an old French name, which he pronounces in the English manner: Gervase de Peyer [JER-vis duh PY-er]. The pianist is Gwenneth Pryor. It starts right off with one of the most hauntingly unforgettable tunes I've ever heard and doesn't let up for the next 15 minutes.

MUSIC: Saint-SaŽns: Sonata for Clarinet and Piano [Chandos CHAN 8526, tracks 1, 2, 3, 4] [15:01}

Clarinetist Gervase de Peyer [JER-vis duh PY-er] and pianist Gwenneth Pryor performed the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Camille Saint-SaŽns. This Chandos CD is filled out with several other clarinet classics highly worthy of your listening time. There is Debussy's PremiŤre Rhapsodie, for example, and his Arabesque No. 2

MUSIC: Debussy: Arabesque No. 2 (very brief excerpt from theme) [Chandos CHAN 8526, track 11]

The Chandos CD also includes Debussy's The Girl with the Flaxman - I mean Flaxen - Hair

MUSIC: Debussy: Girl with the Flaxen Hair (very brief excerpt from theme) [Chandos CHAN 8526, track 12]

The Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Poulenc is also included.

MUSIC: Poulenc: Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (very brief excerpt from theme) [Chandos CHAN 8526, track 8]

The Chandos CD includes the Andantino, Op. 30, No. 1 by Schmitt, Ravel's PiŤce en forme de habanera, and the happy-go-lucky Canzonetta, Op. 19, by Piernť

MUSIC: Piernť: Canzonetta (very brief excerpt from theme)[Chandos CHAN 8526, track 13]

All that on one "Compact Discovery" - the Chandos CD with clarinetist Gervase de Peyer [JER-vis duh PY-er] and pianist Gwenneth Pryor.

Another recording of music by Saint-SaŽns that I greatly admire features violinist Olivier Charlier and pianist Jean Hubeau performing the Sonatas for Piano and Violin, Op. 75 and Op. 102, along with several other pieces for violin and piano by the composer. The gorgeous, flowing melodies of the Op. 75 sonata mix passion and melancholy with moments of light gaiety - Saint-SaŽns at his best.

MUSIC: Saint-SaŽns: Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 75 [MusiFrance/Erato 245 017-2, tracks 1, 2, 3 and 4] [21:52]

Camille Saint-SaŽns at his most melodious. The Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 75. Olivier Charlier was the violinist and Jean Hubeau the pianist on this Musifrance/Erato compact disc.

You are listening to "Neglected Saint-SaŽns" on Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman.

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I'm emphasizing Saint-SaŽns' chamber music here because it seems to be the most neglected of his output. But if you don't have all of this composer's piano concertos, you are missing some delightful music. The Bach-inspired Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22, is my first choice, but I also love the Piano Concerto No. 5 in F, Op. 103, known as "The Egyptian." I have these concertos on a series of EMI digital releases with Jean-Philippe Collard at the keyboard and Andrť Previn conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Piano Concerto No. 1 in D, Op. 17 comes with some miniature compact discoveries, including the jazzy "Wedding Cake" Valse-Caprice, Op. 76.

MUSIC: Saint-SaŽns: "Wedding Cake" Caprice-Valse, Op. 76 [CDC 7 49757 2, track 4] [6:18]

"Wedding Cake" Caprice-Valse, Op. 76 by Camille Saint-SaŽns. We heard Jean-Philippe Collard at the piano with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrť Previn on an EMI compact disc.

One of the most immediately accessible pieces by Saint-SaŽns is a symphonic poem called Phaťton, Op. 39. I just can't understand why this exciting, catchy orchestral work isn't as well known as the Danse macabre. Perhaps if it were associated with some holiday The recording I have features the Basle Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ronald Zollman. Let's hear a long excerpt to conclude this hour of Compact Discoveries.

MUSIC: Saint-SaŽns: Phaťton, Op. 39 [Pan 510 078, track 1] [9:48]

With this excerpt from Phaťton, we come to the end of this edition of Compact Discoveries. We have have been exploring "Neglected Saint-SaŽns." And you see, there's much more to Camille Saint-SaŽns than pianists in a zoo and macabre melodies for Halloween. Give him a chance to show he's serious, and you'll be well rewarded.

Compact Discoveries is produced, recorded and edited by your host, Fred Flaxman. It is a production of listener-supported public radio station WXEL-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida.

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