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Scott Noriega
Fanfare, November 2012

The piano works of Saint-Saëns are some of the forgotten gems in the pianist’s possible repertoire. Being that the composer was one of the finest pianists in the second half of the 19th century, not only is the music well written for the instrument, it is, at its best, some of the composer’s most finessed and engaging. The current program features pieces written throughout the composer’s career, from the virtuosic transcription of the concerto movement and the Thème varié…to the more lighthearted and neoclassical suite. In general, Saint-Saëns’s music necessitates a virtuosic technique; he requires the pianist to maintain lucid textures, careful pedaling, sparkling passagework, and meticulous attention to articulation. In general, Geoffrey Burleson does an admirable job handling all of the many inherent difficulties of this music…What feels right about this program, moreover, is that the pieces are arranged in a way that makes one feel that one is listening to a recital, rather than just a second installment of the complete piano works of this composer.

The hyper-virtuosic Allegro, op. 29, opens the program. The suite, while lighter in mood, contains some very fine moments, from the improvisatory-sounding Prelude to the lively and bouncy Gavotte. Burleson obviously relishes this little masterpiece. The real stars of this program for me, however, are the Thème varié and the fugues. Burleson does a fine job of maintaining a feeling of pulse throughout the entire op. 97, from the simple chorale theme to the more complex figuration in the variations…The pianist…describes the Six Fugues, op. 161, as “a suite of dynamic character pieces.” I couldn’t agree more. Though one can play them as simple academic etudes, whether studies in composition or instrumental technique, Burleson shows them to be true musical masterpieces, from the quasi-prelude first, through the sprightly and lively third, to the longest and climactic final one. Indeed, performing them as a set just makes sense here. And with performances of these fugues as engaging as the music itself, one can only hope that this release may spur more pianists to play this music…I am surely glad to add such a fine release to my collection. If you do not know this music, go out and grab this recording. Saint-Saëns is not one to disappoint. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review



Patrick Rucker
International Record Review, October 2012

Burleson brings a commanding technique and cultured musicality to these works. He takes care to point up Saint-Saëns’s formal mastery and in this sense the two pieces transcribed from concert works are particularly impressive. He is also adept at polyphonic textures, and the fugues, some of which are far from easy, are poised and often charming. On the basis of written accounts and what little we can discern from Saint-Saëns’s own piano rolls, his playing was crisp, sec, flexible and precise. One of the challenges of Saint-Saëns’s piano music, it seems to me, is its sheer stylistic diversity.

Perhaps it is Burleson’s wide-ranging experience with different kinds of music, his experience with jazz, a good deal of contemporary music, not to mention great chunks of the standard repertoire, which makes him such a persuasive advocate for Saint-Saëns. I look forward to future instalments of this important and largely neglected repertoire. © 2012 International Record Review



Bryce Morrison
Gramophone, September 2012

SAINT-SAENS, C.: Piano Works (Complete), Vol. 1 (Burleson) GP601
SAINT-SAENS, C.: Piano Works (Complete), Vol. 2 (Burleson) GP605

‘Les cloches de Las Palmas’ is surprisingly haunting and evocative…and the Toccata from the Fifth Piano Concerto provides a truly dazzling finish to the set.

Vol 2 is more satisfying, including the solo version of the first movement from the Third Concerto, the Allegro appassionato and the Theme and Variations (a piece all aglitter, with a bouncing Gilbert and Sullivan-type finish). Burleson’s opening salvos are admirably presented and recorded by Grand Piano. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone



Byzantion
MusicWeb International, July 2012

For this attractively coherent follow-up Burleson has grouped together works of a Classical or Baroque orientation, colourfully re-imagined by Saint-Saëns in a more contemporary cast. Not all the items here are unremittingly virtuosic, but whatever the music, Burleson proves over and again he has the technique and poetic phraseology to make light of any and all complex passages. Moreover, unlike some, he possesses a delicacy of touch that prevents fortissimo or sforzando chords from ever sounding sledge-hammered.

This CD is produced by Burleson himself with one of America’s finest independent producers, Joseph Patrych, at the latter’s own studios in New York. Sound and general production quality are first-rate…The accompanying booklet is glossy, neat and concise, with English-French notes by Burleson well written, detailed and informative. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2012

The second disc in the complete piano works of Camille Saint-Saëns reminds us that he was primarily a brilliant pianist who wrote music for his own use. A child prodigy who made his Paris debut at the Salle Pleyel at the age of ten, he had offered as an encore any Beethoven sonata the audience would like to hear. That his music was often influenced by a mix of Liszt and Chopin is evident throughout the disc. It opens with an extended Allegro that is essentially a solo piano transcription of the first movement of his Third Piano Concerto with the essential parts of the orchestral score integrated into this new version. Like the Allegro appassionato it was designed to dazzle the audience as hands fly around the keyboard. The disc’s programme notes do forget to mention the Suite for piano, a four-movement neo-classical score from 1891 that revives 17th century dance forms and represent Saint-Saëns’  fascination with long forgotten French musical style. It is an oasis in the disc’s preoccupation with virtuosity. His next piano piece, the Theme Varie was written as a test piece for Paris Conservatoire students, and packs a lot of searching questions for the performers into its six minutes. The disc ends with his last major keyboard work, the Six Fugues. The music of Johann Sebastian Bach is the instigator, though Saint-Saëns’ progression through keys is often more adventurous than Bach would have envisaged. The American pianist, Geoffrey Burleson, moves around these various moods with a real sense of pleasure, articulation could not have been more precise, and agility is outstanding. An excellent disc that is also very well recorded. © 2012 David’s Review Corner






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10:14:26 AM, 19 December 2014
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