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For much of his life Saint-Saëns had the Spanish Sarasate as his main violin colleague. Concertos were written for him, as also was the Introduction and Rondo capriccioso. Such works of utmost brilliance needed also just what Sarasate could offer, 'passionless, smooth, eely tone production' in the words of Carl Flesch. Saint-Saëns rarely plumbed depths, and Sarasate remained at heart a salon artist of rare distinction. The First Violin Sonata was in fact dedicated to Martin Marsick. If Sarasate's career was enhanced by adoring women, Marsick's was destroyed by injudicious pursuit of them. Saint-Saëns was affected neither way, and produced in the Scherzo a movement of piquant enchantment [listen -- CDA67100 track 3, 0:00-1:07].

Saint-Saëns: Music for Violin and Piano. © 1999 Hyperion Records Ltd

Sonata No 2 was indeed first played by Sarasate, though paradoxically it is more serious and 'classical' than its companion. The Scherzo's trio, for instance, as a three-part canon at the 7th, is cunning, attractive and convincing [listen -- CDA67100 track 6, 1:22-2:29]. Triptyque was dedicated to Elisabeth, violinist Queen of the Belgians, and in the initial 'Prémice' Saint-Saëns plays entertaining tricks with unusual time-signatures [listen -- CDA67100 track 9, 0:00-1:09]. Philippe Graffin has the silken, silvery tone to display the debonair elegance of Saint-Saëns. With Pascal Devoyon as like-thinking partner, he gives limpid performances of music well worth an airing.

Copyright © 23 February 2005 Robert Anderson, London UK


Brahms Cello Sonatas - Schubert Arpeggione Sonata

5 86146 2 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 78'05" 2004 EMI Records Ltd

Natalie Clein, cello; Charles Owen, piano

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): Cello Sonata No 2 in F Op 99; Franz Schubert (1797-1828): Arpeggione Sonata in A minor D821; Johannes Brahms: Cello Sonata No 1 in E minor Op 38


Saint-Saëns: Music for Violin and Piano

CDA67100 DDD Stereo 72'30" 1999 Hyperion Records Ltd

Philippe Graffin, violin; Pascal Devoyon, piano

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921): Violin Sonata No 1 in D minor Op 75; Violin Sonata No 2 in E flat major Op 102; Triptyque Op 136; Élégie Op 143; Élégie Op 160; Berceuse in B flat major Op 38


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