'... 45 minutes of pure heaven ...'
Saint-Saëns' 'La Princesse Jaune' -
with RODERIC DUNNETT
Here is unadulterated delight. Saint-Saëns may slip just enough
Arabian Nights into his beautifully turned four-movement Suite algérienne
[listen -- track 4, 0:22-1:21] to recall the nostalgic
heyday of Algérie francaise, when fundamentalists didn't chop
up whole villages in internecine fun; but his superb orchestration leaves
one in no doubt that he has the Franco-Russian entente more in mind
: his orientalism comes from west of Saladin, and it's so assured, it takes
on Rimsky-Korsakov at his own game. Actually, Saint-Saëns wrote most
of the suite in Boulogne, as Edward Blakeman's informative notes point out,
though you wouldn't guess : not a white cliff in sight.
I had a few minor doubts about the recorded sound of this Lugano-made
Swiss Radio recording. But these proved trivial. More important, it's immediate.
The orchestra has a real quality of pathos : the plaintiveness of the woodwind
(something about the flutes), the gorgeously hazy horn quality, a wan vibrato
in the trombones, the wistful tentativeness of the strings (like some hazy
Griegian twilight in the Reverie [listen --
track 3, 0:22-1:22]); even a slight approximation in the tuning, such
as you get on some fabulous Melodiya recording from the Mravinsky era, a
throwback to van Beinum and Fjelstad and Beecham's Delius.
Copyright © 27 January 2001
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK
CD INFORMATION - CHANDOS CHAN 9837
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