About this Recording
8.553039 - SAINT-SAENS: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / Suite, Op. 16

Saint-Saens was one of the most prolific French composers, writing from 1848 well into the 20th Century. Many would say that he wrote too much for his own good, and much of his output can be classed as nothing more than musical confectionary.

But why not enjoy a little confectionary from time to time, though with his cello concertos, his music took on a much more serious character. It dates from 1872, when the composer was 37, and has a very stormy and passionate opening movement, even more dramatic than the Allegro appassionato, which is also included on this disc, and comes from three years later. Though we often think of him as a rather "safe" composer, the concerto, for its period, experiments with traditional form, the work cast in a series of sections, rather than themes and developments.

Very often the cello is used as a declamatory instrument, with the orchestra providing a shimmering backdrop. It certainly makes tremendous demands on the soloist, particularly in the fast second movement, and it has always been a favourite of the great virtuoso cellists, of which Maria Kliegel is one of today's foremost exponents.

Sixteen years later marked the death of his mother, a person who he had loved far beyond that which is normal between mother and son. For a time he thought of suicide, and from then on led a nomadic life, going on long tours, and many of his following works were influenced by music that he encountered in foreign lands.

His second concerto was not composed until 1902, and is a short two movement work, that while offering scope for the cellist's romantic tone, has never captured popularity.

Ironically, his most popular work became the Carnival of the Animals, a work which he dashed off in a few days, and of which he forbade performance during his lifetime, apart from the one movement, a beautiful solo for cello called Le Cygne (The Swan).

The disc is concluded with a performance of the rarely heard Suite, originally written for Piano and Cello, and here heard in its orchestral guise.

Apart from one very difficult to find recording, this is the only version at any price which combines the first and second cello concertos.

It is played by the former winner of the Rostropovich Cello Competition, the virtuoso German-born cellist, Maria Kliegel. She is accompanied by one of Britain's three major chamber orchestras, the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, in recordings made at the orchestra's home, of the Poole Arts Centre, in January 1995.

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