Recently, a Dutch politician wrote on Twitter:
“Tonight I am listening to the piano concerts of Saint Saëns.
A 2nd rate composer, but in everything you feel: his time was better than ours.”
For several reasons I disagree with him. At that time one could *only* hear music composed until that period (including the long forgotten kitsch composed in that period).
Only if you were very wealthy (not much people then) you were able to hear it and of course you had to survive wars, typhoid, cholera and other inconveniences of that period…
But, what shocked me most, was the disdain for Saint-Saens very original piano concerto’s…!!!
In form and orchestration especially the 2nd, 4th and 5th concertos are highly original and in hearing upon hearing you still will be marveled by the inventiveness of Camille.
I have made a playlist of these three concerto’s, which are very dear to me.
First a 1904 “instruction manual” played by Camille Saint-Sains himself of his 2nd piano concerto. Note the left hand playing. Not many pianists play it that way anymore.
Then, a surprise; a Danish pianist called Victor Schiøler who in 1953 delivered one of the most electrifying performances of the 2nd pianoconcerto. The Danish radio orchestra is incited by the Russian conductor Nicolai Malko.
One of the first “cheap” CD’s I bought as a student was the concerto box by Aldo Ciccolini recorded in 1970. With the fourth concerto in this performance, my love for the Saint-sains concertos started. Highly original two movement form.
The fifth piano concerto was inspired by the travels Saint-Saens undertaken to north Africa. The orchestration of this concerto is marvelous and I was pleasantly surprised Dutch pianist Hannes Minnaar played it at the 2010 Queen Elisabeth piano competition. A very fine performance, free and in nothing in his playing you hear he was competing for something. He obviously had fun…
Hope you will enjoy these performances!
Track 01 Camille Saint-Saëns plays parts of the first movement of his second concerto
Tracks 02-04 Concerto No.2 in G minor op. 22 for piano and orchestra (1868)
Victor Schiøler, piano
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra ·
Nicolai Malko, conductor
Tracks 05-06 Concerto No 4 In C Minor, Op. 44 for piano and orchestra (1875)
Orchestre de Paris
Serge Baudo, conductor
Tracks 07-09 Concerto No 5 In F Major, Op. 103 for piano and orchestra (1896)
National orchestra of Belgium,
Marin Aslop, conductor
(Spotify Web Player Link)