Sunday, 1 July 2018

Camille Saint-Saëns

I seem to recall that someone once suggested that Camille Saint-Saëns was “the greatest composer who was not a genius”. Not an entirely unjust epitaph, one feels. Alas, nowadays he is usually only met via his Organ Symphony, the Carnival of the Animals, or the third violin concerto, and most of his prolific output is ignored. Unjustly ignored, I feel, since he crafted many agreeable works. Reminded by a comment from a friend, I took out an old recording of his two piano trios, opus 18 and opus 92. The performers on this 1993 Naxos CD are the Joachim Trio, with John Lenehan as the pianist. Not music to shake the world, but music that gives over an hour of enjoyable listening in entirely civilised company. At this stage of my life, I turn more and more to chamber and recital music — leaving organ symphonies and whatever to other ears. Monsieur Saint-Saëns wrote five piano concertos, three violin concertos, a cello concerto, numerous pieces for violin including the better known Havanaise, and Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso, an opera Samson & Dalila, string quartets, various sonatas and symphonies; none of it trite. A composer most of whose music is unjustly neglected in the modern musical world. Very little angst in Saint-Saëns' music, little grief, few violent emotions. Just very pleasant, tuneful, well-written music inhabiting the same musical world as most of Grieg or Mendelssohn. I love the two piano trios (composed in 1863, and 1892).

No comments: