There is no denying that Saint-SaŽns's was a relatively conservative voice; that is, when he burst onto the scene in the 1850s he was counted as something of an innovator, but already at the time of his first violin sonata (1885) he had become a firm part of the establishment, and by the time of the second (1895) he was a reactionary (note that even the first sonata postdates his third and last violin concerto). His violin sonatas are classical in form and content, and contain few surprises. Still, they are marvelously sunny, engaging and imaginative works; nothing ever outstays its welcome and much of the music is thoroughly memorable.
Both the numbered sonatas are four-movement works; the language is fluent and mellifluous but fresh and clear at the same time. They are also very well written for the instruments (unsurprisingly). The Triptyque is for all practical purposes a third sonata; while the movements bear the titles of tone pictures, and while the movements are evocative and atmospheric, Saint-SaŽns seems to have been more concerned with binding various good themes together in a coherent development than exploring the titles (Vision Congolaise sounds very little like anything but a standard, romantic, French sonata movement). The disc is rounded off by a stirring very late Elegie (1920).
Now, while the idiom is relatively conventional, Saint-SaŽns did not hesitate to put heavy technical demands on performers. Ulf Wallin certainly has the virtuosity required for this music, and he plays with much polish and intelligence. Still, I think the music would have benefited from slightly more passion and expressiveness. On the other hand, Pöntinen matches him well, and these performances are certainly commendable. The sound is, as expected from this source, full and warm.