Saturday, 6 April 2013

Fanny Clamagirand plays Saint-Saëns

Camille Saint-Saëns had a long life (1835-1921) and wrote a great deal of music of all types. His music is melodic, well-crafted and highly agreeable to listen to. No great emotional depths are explored; but so what? It is a bit ridiculous that apart from his “organ” symphony and a few other bits and pieces, his music rarely sees the light of day in the concert hall. I have just spent 68 enjoyable minutes listening to a CD recital of some of his music for violin and piano, including the 23 minute long first sonata that was a favourite of Jascha Heifetz (and is also a great favourite of mine). The violinist of my new Naxos CD is Fanny Clamagirand, not yet 30 and a violinist I have always liked. The world is pulsating with first-class young violinists (many of them female).

Ms Clamagirand plays the first sonata, and also offers ten other shorter pieces by Saint-Saëns, all of them good to hear. She plays extremely well and with obvious feeling for the music, and does not even wilt in comparison with Heifetz in the sonata, partly due to her excellent pianist, Vanya Cohen, and partly to the entirely admirable recording by “Producer, Engineer & Editor” John Taylor; balancing violin and piano, particularly in louder music, is no easy task, as countless failures demonstrate. All praise to Mr Taylor. I spend much time in this blog criticising recording balance. Good to be able to express satisfaction, for a change.

Another good Naxos, then. What a remarkable company, particularly for lovers of violin music. I find it difficult to understand why Saint-Saëns' music is not programmed more often. Could we not at least have the refreshing first violin and piano sonata, rather than yet another rendition of the Franck sonata / Kreutzer / Brahms / Ravel sonata?

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