For a CD to basically receive Five Star reviews (2 exceptions as a whole, @ 4 star) from TWENTY reviewers across Amazon as a whole has to be considerable praise in itself, but, here we have one such …..
This CD is a celebration of some of the finest compositions of Camille Saint-Saëns and features three of Saint-Saëns finest orchestral works: Piano Concerto No.2, Violin Concerto No. 3, and, the Cello Concerto No. 1. Each piece is played by a different orchestra, features different conductors, and has 3 exceptional soloists: Cecile Licad, Cho-Liang Lin and Yo-Yo Ma.
Taking the separate pieces in the order in which I suggest they be played: i.) Concerto No. 2 for Piano has the London Philharmonic Orchestra with Andre Previn at the helm. Camille Saint-Saëns composed this in 1868. The following year the piece received critical acclaim from none other than Franz Liszt. Worthy distinction, as this has to be one of the finest Piano concerto’s around, with, in this 1983 Henry Wood Hall, London, digital recording, Andre Previn, the LPO and soloist Cecile Licad doing the composition fine justice. Rightfully, the piece receives plenty of airtime on the likes of Classic FM, with, in particular the second “Allegro scherzando” and final “Presto” movements being perhaps the more recognisable sections. We move onto:
ii.) The Concerto No. 3 for Violin and Orchestra (op. 61) has the Philharmonia Orchestra under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas and was recorded at EMI’s famous Abbey Road Studio in London in October 1982. Cho-Liang Lin does considerable justice in this recording of the piece, written in 1880 for famous Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate. In particular, the exquisite second movement “Andantino quasi allegretto” being perhaps the most recognisable section of this concerto. The final piece therefore:
iii.) The third in my sequence of listening to this CD is the Cello Concerto No 1 featuring non-other than fine soloist cellist Yo-Yo Ma, with Lorin Maazel guiding the Orchestre National De France. This is a 1980 studio digital recording, captured in the Paris Radio France studio and is regarded as one of Yo-Yo Ma’s finest performances.
In conclusion, three wonderful recordings, three notable soloists (particularly Yo-Yo Ma) and three exceptional conductors in Previn, Maazel and Tilson Thomas. This certainly is a fine collection of three of Saint-Saëns greatest orchestral works and a worthy inclusion in anyone’s Classical Music collections, in particular, documenting the early-1980’s era of orchestral interpretations and recordings. You know what to do: Buy, Listen, Relax, Enjoy, be exhilarated!!!
This disc is a compilation of recording made in the early 1980s. All three recordings are admirably clear and well balanced and each of the three performances has the appropriate sparkle and good humour typical of the composer.
There is really very little to add to this review as Yo Yo Ma's performance of the cello concerto 1 has long been considered one of the very finest, good enough to be thought of as the reference performance by many. The same can be said of Cho-Liang Lin's performance of the 3rd violin concerto, easily the best of the composer's three violin concertos. Cecile Licad's performance of the popular 2nd piano concerto is in much the same class too. All three soloists are fully on top of the Saint Saens world of lyrical good humour and they all absolutely have that crucial 'lift' that turns good performances into special performances.
I instinctively recoil from suggesting that any disc may be definitive, a reference, the best etc. but in this case this coupling of three such fine performances seems almost too good to be true.
I would therefore suggest that this ideal coupling of Saint Saens' most popular concerto works all on one disc makes this an issue that deserves very special consideration from anyone contemplating purchasing any one or more of these very enjoyable works.
One can get a bit tired of all the reissuing and repackaging of music on CD these days, but every now and again (as with DGG's decision to put Kleiber's Beethoven Fifth and Seventh on a single CD), they do something right. Sony got this one right. The music on this CD originally appeared on three CD's, each featuring one of the artists, and to bring them together to create a sampler of Saint-Saens concertos was a great idea. All are very fine performances, and the recorded sound is excellent. Cecile Licad, a Leventritt winner, isn't much heard of nowadays on major labels, but she is a fine pianist, and in Saint-Saens's most appealing piano concerto, she's up to the virtuoso demands. She is very well supported by Previn and the LPO. Maazel and the French National Orchestra accompany Yo-Yo Ma's typically refined and eloquent account of the Cello Concerto No. 1, and Tilson Thomas and the Philharmonia accompany Cho-Liang Lin in the Violin Concerto No. 3, an account that matches Perlman's on DGG but has better sound balance. I love them all, but perhaps Lin's performance is the one that I like best -- though that might be because I so admired his Sibelius/Nielsen disc. Over 70 minutes of music, and a lot of talent and variety. Strongly recommended.