Louis Lortie completes his survey for Chandos of Camille Saint-Saëns’s five Piano Concertos, the composer a virtuoso of the instrument.
The E-flat No.3 (1869) opens like a sunrise, the first movement alternating between bravura incident and a blissful second subject, the composer’s consummate writing brought to contrasting life by Lortie as well as the BBC Philharmonic and Edward Gardner, alert and trusty partners throughout all the pieces here, all faithfully captured by engineer Stephen Rinker. Following No.3’s attractively rhapsodic first movement is a dusky, very beautiful, Andante (persuasively adagio here), which maybe expresses a secreted narration (such as a clandestine love-affair by moonlight), and a Finale that perks along with tunes that stay long in the mind.
Piano Concerto #5 is known as the Egyptian (1896, his final Piano Concerto, yes, but the long-lived Saint-Saëns stayed alive until 1921), a souvenir of the composer’s inveterate travels. It’s a lovely piece, once again stacked with engaging and expressive ideas, full of warmth and colour, and plenty of scintillation, too, all done proud by the performers here.
This release – Chandos CHAN 20038 – also includes Saint-Saëns’s Rhapsodie d’Auvergne (Opus 73) and Allegro appassionato (Opus 70), splendid pieces both, the former delicate and fragrant/musing on the landscape, then introducing ‘local’ singing and dancing folksiness, whereas the Allegro is underpinned by ardour and bittersweet reflection,