‘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.’
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).
Listen to an extract from Étienne Marcel, Act III: Ballet: I. Entrée des écoliers et des ribaudes
About the Artists
Jun Märkl, a highly respected interpreter of core Germanic repertoire, is also known for his refined and idiomatic explorations of the French Impressionists. He serves as music director of the Taiwan National Symphony Orchestra, and principal guest conductor of both the Residentie Orkest The Hague and the Oregon Symphony. His Naxos discography includes albums of works by Ravel and Messiaen, together with a highly acclaimed Debussy series with the Orchestre National de Lyon. He is currently working on a cycle of works by Saint-Saëns, Richard Strauss and Toshio Hosokawa.
The Residentie Orkest plays an important role in supporting The Hague’s wider profile. It has been located in the Amare, the city's new performing arts centre, since 2021. The orchestra can also be frequently heard at the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Tivoli Vredenburg in Utrecht and De Doelen in Rotterdam, and frequently collaborates with Dutch classical radio and the Dutch National Opera.
‘Here’s a terrific disc for record collectors looking to complete their collections of Saint-Saëns’ orchestral music … with Jun Märkl leading such vivacious performances, equally well played and recorded.’ – ClassicsToday.com
‘Jun Märkl and the Basque National Orchestra are ideal interpreters of Saint-Saëns, restrained but with real grace, and the strings in this little-known orchestra rise to the occasion. A nice find for lovers of French music.’ – AllMusic.com★★★★
‘This is a truly glorious Saint-Saëns anthology wrapped in a different soundscape that reveals the music in a new, quasi brassy light. Spectacular performances coupled with some gorgeous sound quality.’ – Classical Music Daily