For a composer so renowned, it is surprising how much of the music of Saint-Saëns is so little known. Aside from the "Organ" Symphony, the "Egyptian" Piano Concerto, Samson et Délilah, and of course Carnival of the Animals, the majority of the French Romantic's huge oeuvre is terra incognita for most classical listeners. This is particularly true of his chamber music, an imbalance this Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm disc attempts to redress by coupling first-rate performances by the Mozart Piano Quartet of the composer's three works for that combination: the four-movement B flat major Quartet published as Opus 41, the unpublished three-movement E major Quartet, and the single-movement Barcarolle published as Opus 108. Individually, each player is a virtuoso, and together they form a virtuoso ensemble that can handle any technical difficulties. More importantly, the players are also all deeply committed to the music. Each work here shines: the masterful and wholly characteristic B flat major Quartet, the early and less characteristic but still effective E major Quartet, and exceedingly lovely and sensual Barcarolle. Captured in digital sound so real you'll have to check that the players are not, in fact, in the room with you, this disc should be heard by anyone interested in the composer, the period, or the genre.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Quartet for piano & strings in B flat major, Op. 41|
|Quartet for piano & strings in E flat major|
|Barcarolle for violin, cello, organ & piano in F major, Op. 108|