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Saint-Saens: Piano Quartet; Piano Quintet; Septet; etc.

Camille Saint-Saens , Nash Ensemble Audio CD

Price: CDN$ 38.09 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Septuor, op.65 - Tarentelle, op.6 - Sonate pour basson, op.168 - Quatuor avec piano, op.41 - Quintette pour piano et cordes, op.14 - Sonate pour hautbois, op.166 - Sonate pour clarinette, op.167 - Caprice sur des airs danois et russes / The Nash Ensemble

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Hours' Worth of Chamber Music Pleasure Sept. 28 2005
By M. C. Passarella - Published on Amazon.com
The Septet is probably Saint-Saens' most popular chamber work, so I tend to take it for granted. But listening to it again in the Nash's excellent performance, I'm struck by how wonderfully successful a work it is. Like Grieg's "Holberg Suite," it's a loving evocation of 18th-century music by an echt-Romantic composer. But unlike Grieg, Saint-Saens had a strong classical bent to his music making. When Gounod called Saint-Saens "the Beethoven of France," he gave cognizance to this fact; in an era when French composers spent most of their time trying to make it big in the opera world, Saint-Saens was a consummate master of all forms of music: orchestral, chamber, choral, and of course opera.

But back to that Septet. More than just a very attractive oddity, it contains one of Saint-Saens' most deeply felt slow movements and a minuet that is about as close to musical perfection as a composer can get whose name isn't Mozart!

In plain fact, this collection should be a reminder of just how much truly fine chamber music Saint-Saens crafted in his long life. Highpoints of the set are the Piano Quartet, one of the finest in the repertoire, and the Sonatas for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon written in the last year of the composer's life. Gentle and subdued as they are, autumnal works in the manner of Brahms's late chamber works, they still manage to gently exploit the comic potential of the clarinet and the bassoon. My favorite is the Clarinet Sonata, with its near-tragic slow movement and last movement in which the players seem to briefly lose their way harmonically in one recurring episode. Is this Saint-Saens' wry commentary on modern music circa 1920? Typical of Saint-Saens, the sonata is cyclic in nature, the opening allegretto returning at the very end of the sonata in the manner of a rondo--a rondo that covers four movements! A wonderful touch.

The Piano Quartet is another cyclic work; themes from the first and second movements return in the triumphant finale. That second movement, by the way, is one of Saint-Saens' most striking; highly contrapuntal, it proceeds at a processional pace that's haunting in its relentlessness.

The works aren't equally inspired of course. The precocious Tarentelle is derailed by a cloying Mendelssohn-meets-French-music-hall middle section, while the early Quintet starts out like a house afire only to be squelched, as is too often the case in Saint-Saens, by a less-than-sterling finale, with a superb melody that the composer doesn't quite know how to handle. But there are many more hits than misses among the works represented here.

It is a mark of the excellence of the performances by the Nash Ensemble that pieces I've taken for granted come up sounding fresh, especially the Caprice for flute, oboe, clarinet, and piano. A potpourri for sure, but a very gracious and beautifully crafted one. All it requires is lovely, assured playing such as we have here. Special praise is due Ian Brown, who is front and center in all these works, playing Saint-Saens' often-demanding piano parts with aplomb and with obvious relish.

Henry Wood Hall in London must be a great recording venue; at least the Hyperion engineers produce excellent results there. The sense of hall is palpable, and every instrument sounds natural and very "present." This package is two hours of real pleasure for chamber music lovers.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome! Sept. 28 2005
By G. Metcalf - Published on Amazon.com
This is a very enjoyable CD. I have found that everything the Nash Ensemble does is first rate. The first piece is an interesting septet including a trumpet. Especially in its middle sections, it is a wonderful piece. The piano quintet and quartet are quite different from each other and very satisfying. The woodwind sonatas which I had been familiar with from other versions are well done here. The aspect of Saint-Saens I found most enjoyable is the writing for the piano which is not simply supportive accompaniment but bubbly and virtuosic on its own. Just an excellent recording!
I had to go back and edit this to add a comment about the "Tarantelle"; a delightful piece with piano, clarinet and flute. This was the first piece to bring Saint-Saens to the attention of a wide audience and is available in its entirety as a preview at Hyperion's web site in their "listening room".
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent chamber works worthy of a listen! April 1 2007
By Giradman - Published on Amazon.com
The Nash Ensemble is one of my favorite chamber groups, and the performers invariably produce an excellent effort in most of their many recordings. Saint-Saens was a long-lived composing genius and certainly understood the writing of chamber works well - several outstanding reviews have already been offered, so I will not go into details; however, I rated these discs 5* (probably would have done 4 1/2*, if possible) simply to counteract the underserved rating of 3* - not sure even how valid this opinion may be for someone who states that "My only quibble with that is it's what you could say about 95 percent of classical music CDs." I would likely agree that this high percentage might refer to current 'pop' music, but as an owner of nearly 2000 classical music CDs, the statement is a reflection of ignorance. Furthermore, the Amazon price of this 2-CD set is indeed ridiculous - 'new' sets can be obtained for less that half that price on the Marketplace (which I use often); in addition, check out the Berkshire Record Outlet which sells numerous Hyperion CDs at ridiculously low prices (sorry, Amazon). So, please read the good reviews only.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Innventive and Original Oct. 20 2011
By BarClay - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This compilation of Saint-Saens' chamber music is well chosen and well played. If nothing else, it demonstrates the composers inventiveness and originality. Who else would add a trumpet to a Piano Quintet? In particular, the clarinet sonata is melodic, fun, and a pleasure. If I had any critism, it's that the strings are sometimes too low in volume in comparison to the piano. That fault aside, if you like romantic music, this a CD you will enjoy
5.0 out of 5 stars Saint-saens chamber music a winner! April 12 2011
By StoogeShadow - Published on Amazon.com
An absolute gem for those who want high quality chamber music. Saint-Saens gives his music the potent emotion of the masters. He is too often undervalued. The piano quartet and quintet in particular merit special listening and enjoyment without ANY distractions to really appreciate their beauty.

The only higher quality to this would be to hear this live with the Nash Ensemble.

This is definitely a must for your musical library.

.Shadow.

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