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Neeme Jarvi Conducts Saint Saens [Chandos: CHSA 5104] Hybrid SACD
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The works on this disc are all early, dating from the first half of the composing life of Saint-Saëns that is, with the one exception of the Marche du couronnement which the composer wrote for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902. In Spartacus, the composer depicts Alphonse Pagèss tragedy on the revolt headed by the ill-fated gladiator in 73 BC by use of bold, chromatic notes, followed by a military allegro which integrates them. After a tender theme, the bold notes return, now with a downward turn at the end, probably evoking Spartacuss defeat, and the concert overture ends with a march that recalls the tender theme. Equally dramatic is Saint-Saënss symphonic poem Phaëton. In ancient Greek myths, Phaëton, the son of Helios, is reluctantly given permission to drive his fathers sun chariot. As Phaëton fails to control the chariot, and carries the sun too close to the earth, Zeus intervenes and brings the unfortunate ride and Phaëton himself to an abrupt end by means of a thunderbolt. Saint-Saënss writing for large-scale orchestra (including contra-bassoon, tuba, two harps, and three timpanists) brings with it a pure, raw energy. The intense state of panic is signalled by a menacing low note on the trombone and further heightened through subsequent imitative entries that crowd in on one another. After Zeuss massive thunderbolt, the music subsides into a feeling of loss and regret. Saint-Saënss other three symphonic poems are also on this disc Le Rouet dOmphale, Danse macabre, and La Jeunesse dHercule as well as the Danse bacchanale from Samson et Dalila and the Marche militaire française from Suite algérienne. The works are performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and its Conductor Laureate, Neeme Järvi, who in the course of his conducting career has amassed a distinguished discography of more than 440 recordings, well over 150 of them for Chandos Records.
The RSNO is on top form, full of wit, colour and joie de vivre. Performance ***** Recording ***** BBC MUSIC ORCHESTRAL CHOICE --BBC Music Magazine,Aug'12
Fêted from the Middle East to South America (where he wrote the Uruguayan national anthem) during his life-time, Camille Saint-Saëns is remarkable both for the variety and volume of his orientalist music and the sophistication of its orchestration. Neeme Järvi's programme of symphonic poems, bacchanales and barcarolles ranges from the smokily luxuriant to the swashbuckling. An attractive performance of exotic bon-bons from the RSNO. **** --Independent ,24/06/12
Recommendation ? It's hard to imagine any lover of romantic music-much less any admirer of Saint-Saens in particular-who won't want to snap up this disc. Warmly Welcomed. --IRR, July/Aug'12
The playing is full of character, the music's detail clearly elucidated, the images of Saint-Saens's imagination frimly and atmospherically fixed.All in all this is a disc with plenty to discover and enjoy. --Gramophone, Sept'12
Top Customer Reviews
How great is Saint-Saens! With this Super Audio Compact Disc, it is worth exploring the settings on your player. I tried it out variously on different players. As to this music, 'Spartacus' was rediscovered in the 1990s. Originally it won a music competition for a grand overture. It certainly is that and reminds me of Berlioz overtures. Saint-Saens listening ear spans Algeria, England, Portugal, the Middle East and Japan. The Japonism movement inspired him to write a comic operetta entitled 'La Princesse Jaune'. It's overture is a delight. The Middle East is represented by augmented seconds in the Bacchanale from the Final Act from 'Samson and Delilah'. There is a world of pace and excitement in this performance from a lively Scottish National Orchestra in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Very different is the peace and tranquility of A Night in Lisbon. The jingoism of French colonial forces is captured in Marche militaire francaise from Suite Algerienne - great opportunities for the brass! For me the highlight of this superb set of recordings is the four Symphonic Poems. I like the smooth femininity depicted with Omphale and her spinning wheel. In 'Phaeton' there is the smash of Zeus' thunderbolt and the timpanists are inspired. The leader of the orchestra - Maya Iwabuchi gives a spine chilling performance alongside the bone rattling xylophone playing in the 'Danse macabre'. The 'Youth of Hercules' is overwhelming in its splendid SACD sound. Finally, I also liked the glory- filled music,even the bells, that Saint-Saens composed for the Coronation of Edward VIIth. Perhaps it could do with another outing - maybe for a Charles, a William or a George... maybe
Personally I think Neeme Jarvi is a very dull conductor in the concert hall - he was chief conductor with our local Residentie orchestra, The Hague for some years - but he does wonders with microphones around him. And possibly it's his love for this excellent Scottish orchestra too..... The Spartacus symphonic poem is available on a EMI recording from 1999 (Kantorow with the so called Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, whatever that may be) but that recording is as foggy and unpleasantly undynamic as Paris in the morning mist. Jarvi sparkles. The best reference for the tracks 2, 3, 4 and 5 are a recording done by Charles Dutoit with the excellent Philharmonia orchestra on a Decca CD (still available). That's a very fine recording but Chandos' engineers give the orchestra the extra sparkle and champagne. So if you like a `best off' recording of this composer's output, go for this one.
This "Chandos" SACD is quite an intriguing offer: It contains 10 pieces by Saint-Saens, of which some are well known (Bacchanale from Samson & Dalilah, Route d'Omphale, Dance Macabre, French military march), and six other pieces less frequently heard, of which "young Hercules" is the longest (14 minuets).
The Scottish national Orchestra under the baton of maestro Jarvi exhibit with these pieces flexibility, beauty of tone, togetherness and excitement which does not fail to 'rock and swing' at the right passages, and does not fail to put the listener in a more ponderous mood in some of the more 'dreamy-romantic' moments.
The SACD (multichannel) is of a demonstration quality with energy bursts interwoven with sweet pianissimo and crystal-clear tones.
(One is advised to set the playing mode into SACD-direct on his/her player - if possible - in order to gain even more of the recording revenue and the explosive dynamic this Chandos exhibits).
The recording was made in September 2011 at the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow.
Looks like Chandos is ready to fly high along with Telarc, Bis, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra label.
It surely leaves the likes of Pentatone and other SACD imposters deep in the dust.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
For fear of appearing superfluous, I don't very often review discs that have already been reviewed several times, especially when my opinions are much the same as those already... Read morePublished on 10 Mar. 2013 by J. A. Peacock
I bought this disc principally because recordings of Phaeton are rare, but I am enjoying every one of the ten relatively short pieces. Read morePublished on 3 Jan. 2013 by Eclectic music lover