The essence of Camille Saint-Saëns' music comes through perhaps most clearly in his music for solo instrument and orchestra, which exemplifies his elegant combination of melody and conservatory-generated virtuosity. The two cello concertos are here, plus a pair of crowd-pleasing short works for piano and orchestra, and the evergreen Carnival of the Animals, with pianists Louis Lortie and Hélène Mercier joining forces along with a collection of instruments that includes the often-omitted glass harmonica. There are all kinds of attractions here: the gently humorous and not over-broad Carnival, the songful cello playing of Truls Mørk, and the little-known piano-and-orchestra scene Africa, Op. 89, with its lightly Tunisian flavor (sample this final track). But really, the central thread connecting them all is the conducting of Neeme Järvi and the light, graceful work of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; French music is the nearly 80-year-old Järvi's most congenial environment, and in this recording, perhaps his last devoted to Saint-Saëns, he has never been better. Chandos contributes idiomatic sound from the Grieg Hall in Bergen, and even if Saint-Saëns has little to say about life's deep questions, you won't care.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Concerto No. 1 in A minor for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 33|
|Concerto No. 2 in D minor for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 119|
|Les Carnaval des animaux for Two Pianos, Flute, Clarinet, Glass Harmonica, Xylophone, and Strings|