Alexandre Kantorow / Jean-Jacques Kantorow / Tapiola Sinfonietta

Saint-Saëns: Piano Concertos 3, 4 & 5 "L'Égyptien"

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There has been a vogue for the music of Saint-Saëns in the late 2010s, which is all to the good, and the piano concertos especially have come in for increased exposure. It turned out that all they needed was some flair and enthusiasm; they're marvelous. This release by pianist Alexandre Kantorow, with the Tapiola Sinfonietta conducted by Jean-Jacques Kantorow (his father), stands out even among strong competition and even considering that it does not include the most popular of the five, the Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22. Saint-Saëns was paradoxical: he was a classicist who admired Liszt and was in turn admired by him. The delightful effort to reconcile Classical concerto forms with splendid virtuoso effects (the composer was one of the great pianists of his day) can be heard in all these pieces, but sample the second movement of the increasingly popular Piano Concerto No. 5 in F major, Op. 103 ("Egyptian"), where a giant, sweeping Lisztian gesture on the piano fills the role of the first theme, while the second theme is a catchy melody Saint-Saëns supposedly heard from boatmen on the Nile. All the concertos require a pianist of both grace and power, and that is what they receive at the hands of the young Alexandre Kantorow, whose background is as a Lisztian. BIS contributes superior sound from the Tapiola Concert Hall. Highly recommended.

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