‘I am proud to present Vol. 5 in the series of rarely heard orchestral works by Saint-Saëns. This latest album focuses on the ballets from operas that have remained largely unperformed – Henry VIII, Parysatis and Étienne Marcel. In the case of Henry VIII, I also selected excerpts from other important parts of the opera, such as the interludes and preludes, to provide listeners with a wider access to the music of this remarkable but unknown work.
To listen to Saint-Saëns is always a pleasure, and I am grateful to Naxos for having taken the effort to make this music accessible – some of it has not been available for generations.’
– Jun Märkl
This album presents a selection of Saint-Saëns’ incidental music and music from his operas. From Samson et Dalila – the only one of Saint-Saëns’ operas to remain in the repertory – we hear two memorable and adrenalin-fuelled dances including the famous Bacchanale. Henry VIII drew from the composer music of regal solemnity with plenty of colourful scoring, praised by Gounod. The lukewarm reception to Étienne Marcel came as a bitter disappointment to Saint-Saëns but the customary ballet includes a strong element of delightful 14th-century pastiche. The incidental music to the play Parysatis received tumultuous acclaim at its premiere in 1902 and includes the delightful Airs de ballet flecked by the use of crotales (antique finger-cymbals).