Stephen Hough / Sakari Oramo

Saint-Saëns: Piano Concertos Nos. 2, 4 & 5

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Camille Saint-Saëns wrote a total of five piano concertos, and the three most popular of those are presented here in Hyperion's The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 27. The level of difficulty, amount of feeling, and inventiveness of melody in Saint-Saëns' concertos is on a par with those of Chopin, Liszt, Mendelssohn, and Brahms, but the structure of them is all his own and different in each one of the three here. Where most concertos begin with an orchestral introduction before the soloist enters, Saint-Saëns begins the Concerto No. 2 with a piano solo. Most concertos have a three-movement, fast-slow-fast structure. Saint-Saëns' Concerto No. 4 is in two multi-section movements. The sections of those movements also have very little thematic development as would be found in a typical sonata form movement. His slow movements tend to be more lighthearted than the usual dreamy, lyrical, Romantic Andante movement, and in all the concertos there relationship between the orchestra and piano is collaborative rather than adversarial. The Piano Concerto No. 5, which he completed in 1896 in Cairo, contains wonderfully exotic Eastern sounds. The dexterous Stephen Hough and conductor Sakari Oramo give these concertos their full due, bringing animation, energy, and playfulness to the music, particularly in places such as the Scottish-sounding end of the Concerto No. 4. The end of Concerto No. 2 is thrilling without being too precipitous, while the end of No. 5 is dramatic without being banged out. Hough and Oramo create music that easily sweeps the listener along with its joyfulness, making this a highly recommendable choice for these works.

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