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Customer Review

Here are a French violinist, a French conductor and a Finnish orchestra, playing quintessential late Romantic concertos from a grand old man of French music. It all gels admirably, in clear Naxos sound, in a 2009 recording from Hankasalmi church in the orchestra`s hometown of Jyvaskyla. (Naxos certainly get around.)
The main draw, apart from the composer`s increasingly sure-footed artistry, is the incandescent playing of Fanny Clamagirand, all of 25 when she recorded this disc.
Her control is astonishing, and she sounds as if she emotionally identifies with this often ecstatic music of her homeland, while playing with great muscular energy and lack of self-indulgence.
The three concertos are presented in an odd order: #2, which the excellent booklet notes tell us was composed first, is here placed third; #1, composed second, is placed second, while #3 is the first to be heard. (Got that?) It`s instructive to occasionally play them in order of composition, where one can hear Saint-Saens` growing confidence as his orchestration breaks free from an almost Beethovenian stodginess in parts of the 30-minute "2nd" concerto, to come to fruition in the brief 13-minute "1st"; nothing against Beethoven, by the way.
The third concerto is a magnificent work, again lasting half an hour, which begins with a gloriously themed Allegro non troppo, which contains many adagio interludes and chances for the violin to take wing in some of the composer`s most unashamedly
emotive, expressive music.
Violinist and conductor give this irresistible music their all. The disc is worth buying for this last of the three concertos alone.
The music of Saint-Saens is sometimes damned with faint praise, but the more I hear of it, the more I am an admirer. May I recommend also his piano concertos: the second is justly famous, but the remarkable, highly-perfumed fifth -the "Egyptian" -awaits a wider audience. Brigitte Engerer`s recording of these two is impeccable. The opera Samson et Dalila is a luscious delight, too. Try the Domingo/Meier/Chung recording.
Meanwhile, this is a terrific disc.
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