The close attention paid by the Naxos label to the music of Camille Saint-Saëns, much of it from the conductor Marc Soustrot, has yielded many small pleasures, and this release with cellist Gabriel Schwabe and Sweden's Malmö Symphony Orchestra is no exception. Saint-Saëns was marvelously fluent in dealing with the challenges of writing for cello and orchestra, and he could handle anything from the blistering virtuosity of the Cello Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 119 to the most lyrical melodies. Schwabe is competent in both concertos, although you can probably find more individual recordings elsewhere. What you can't find are the lesser-known works. Three of them are arrangements of other works, but the Suite in D minor, Op. 16bis is not, and it's a fascinating piece that contains the whole French neoclassic movement in chrysalis form. The work is meant to be a kind of Bach-ian suite, but ending with a Romance and a Tarantella, it turns into something else along the way. Here Schwabe excels, and the performers find a work that could be added profitably to any program of French music of the early 20th century.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Suite in D minor, Op. 16bis|
|Cello Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 119|