Saint-Saëns: Cello Concertos, Carnival of the Animals - Mørk / Lortie / Mercier / Järvi
Chandos CHSA 5162
Classical - Orchestral
Saint-Saëns: Cello Concertos 1 & 2; Caprice-Valse*, Op. 76 "Wedding cake"; Africa*, Op. 89; Le Carnaval des animaux*/**
Truls Mørk (cello)
Louis Lortie* & Hélène Mercier** (pianos)
Alasdair Malloy (glass harmonica)
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Neeme Järvi present this unusual collection of popular works by Saint-Saëns, for orchestra and piano or cello.
Truls Mørk, this season Artist in Residence with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, is the soloist in the two contrasted cello concertos. His ‘seemingly flawless technical command’ is tested in the suave, expressive, famous No. 1 as well as in the many taxing solo passages, huge leaps, and double-stopping flourishes of No. 2.
The indefatigable duo Louis Lortie and Hélène Mercier join in the posthumously published Carnival of the Animals, after a highly successful recording of Concertos by Poulenc with Edward Gardner, Disc of the Week in The Sunday Times. They offer the original version, which features a glass harmonica (normally substituted by a glockenspiel). Louis Lortie is also the soloist in the entertaining fantasia Africa, which incorporates folk tunes of the different countries in which it was composed and which is brought off with consummate zest, as well as in the most characteristic and probably challenging of the composer’s keyboard pieces, the Caprice-Valse Wedding-cake, written for the second wedding of the composer’s virtuosic pianist friend Caroline Montigny-Rémaury.
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- Camille Saint-Saëns: Africa for Piano and Orchestra, R. 204 Op. 89
- Camille Saint-Saëns: Caprice-Valse for Piano and Orchestra, R. 76 Op. 76 'Wedding Cake'
- Camille Saint-Saëns: Carnival of the Animals, R. 125
- Camille Saint-Saëns: Concerto for Cello No. 1 in A minor, R. 193 Op. 33
- Camille Saint-Saëns: Concerto for Cello No. 2 in D minor, Op. 119
Review by John Broggio - December 23, 2015
Having expressed considerable reservations about Neeme Järvi's last outing in French repertoire, it was with some trepidation that this played. Fortunately, these fears were entirely unjustified and we are treated to 75 minutes of wonderful music making.
The disc opens with the two cello concertos, in which Truls Mørk is a wonderfully persuasive advocate, especially in the second concerto which can easily be waylaid by the extraordinary amount of double-stopping called for by Saint-Saëns. Not here though - everything is as fleet-as-foot as one wish for in the solo parts and the response give to Järvi's direction by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra is commensurate with the cello line.
The Carnival of the Animals follows and having spent some time enjoying the chamber ensemble version, it was wonderful to hear the Bergen strings respond with such a light touch. Throughout the ear is drawn (by the musicians, not the engineering team) to the myriad of detail that Louis Lortie, Hélène Mercier and orchestra bring to this delightful score. The use of a glass harmonica in the Aquarium is wonderfully caught and really makes it stand out. Perhaps more than anything, any recording of this work that can be returned to again and again must have a sense of humour. The strings under Järvi's baton are suitably deadpan in Tortoises but deliver uproarious braying in the Long-Eared Characters and while the pianists are perhaps stretching things a little far in Pianists, one can hear equally if not more exaggerated playing elsewhere. Truls Mørk returns to provide a wonderful "cameo" in the Swan before a wonderfully joyous finale.
As a pair of encores, Louis Lortie takes centre stage to give sparkling accounts of both the "Wedding Cake" and Africa; in both, Järvi's direction is as inspired as his soloist, the Bergen orchestra responding with obvious affection and enjoyment.
The sound is as rich and clear as one has come to expect from the Chandos team in this hall, so this release must be highly commended indeed.
Copyright © 2015 John Broggio and HRAudio.net