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Gould Piano Trio: Saint-Saëns — ‘open-air freshness’

Gould Piano Trio: Saint-Saëns — ‘open-air freshness’

April 20
21:13 2018


Gould Piano Trio: Saint-Saëns

(Champs Hill Records)

Throughout the second half of the 19th-century, musical life in France was dominated by grand opera. Like his contemporaries, Saint-Saëns turned his hand to opera, but he also had an enduring interest in the classical forms of the symphony, concerto and — especially in his later life — chamber music. “In literature,” he wrote, “there is the Theatre, but there is also the Book, to which we must always return, whatever the powerful attractions of the stage; in musical literature, concert and chamber music represents the book, with its special importance, its solidity and its durability.”

His two piano trios are characteristically both durable and elegant. Saint-Saëns can start with the most trite of ideas, but slowly build up from it a very effective whole movement. Neither of his piano trios is on the level of the greatest the repertoire has to offer, but they are well written, lovely to play, entertaining to hear, either live or in recordings. The first, composed in 1863, was one of his early successes and makes up in open-air freshness (it was composed during a holiday in the Pyrenees) what it lacks in depth. The second, dating from 1892, is deeper and subtler, while still flourishing his trademark glinting piano part, pace and elegance.

The Gould Piano Trio play both with a nice feel for the salon etiquette of the period and an unshowy sparkle. The disc is completed by the little-known La Muse et le poète.


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