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La jota aragonese Op 64, recorded here for the first time [listen -- track 6, 2:39-3:44], is Saint-Saëns' version of a Spanish folk song used by Glinka in his Spanish Overture No 1 (1844). Glinka picked up this sparkling number from a street guitarist in Valladolid, a Renaissance city on the River Pisuerga, Castile-Leon. Chances are you haven't heard this orchestration before but the tune is as familiar as Chabrier's morsels.

Samson and Delilah -- Grand Fantasy was concocted by Saint-Saëns' contemporary, composer of the Ballet Egyptien (1875) and for nine years conductor of the Paris Opéra-Comique, Alexandre Luigini (1850-1906). For this purpose Luigini picked out outstanding bits of the full opera in random order. Listen for Act 1 arias, Delilah's 'When Twilight is Falling' and from Samson, 'Pray to God' -- and later the moving highlight 'Softly Wakes my Heart'.

Camille Saint-Saëns
Camille Saint-Saëns

The Tarantelle Op 6 with its echoes of Mendelssohn is a featherweight delight and both soloists, deft flutist Susan Milan and equally adroit clarinetist James Campbell, were clearly in their element as they tossed it off. I had to force myself not to stand up and cheer as this five-and-a-half minute item ended [listen -- track 8, 4:03-5:34].

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Copyright © 12 August 2007 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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