Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Robert Matthew-Walker
Musical Opinion, April 2018

SAINT-SAËNS, C.: Piano Concertos, Vol. 1 - Nos. 1 and 2 (Descharmes, Malmö Symphony, Soustrot) 8.573476
SAINT-SAËNS, C.: Piano Concertos, Vol. 3 - Nos. 4 and 5 (Descharmes, Malmö Symphony, Soustrot) 8.573478

These two single discs complete this excellent pianist’s [Descharmes] recordings of Saint-Saëns’ complete works for piano and orchestra with the fine Malmö Orchestra under their chief conductor, the result being a set of records of admirable consistency and musicianship.

Thankfully, this set of performances are of a high standard throughout, and moving to the second CD (the third in the set), we find the wonderfully original Fourth Concerto of 1875… Descharmes gives a splendid account of this wonderful work, as he does of the later (1896) Fifth Concerto…

…these performances would be hard indeed to equal, let alone beat. Comprehensively recommended. © 2018 Musical Opinion

Paul L Althouse
American Record Guide, July 2017

Soustrot, who was born in Lyons, has an affinity for French music, and he understands the need for lightness and clarity in these pieces; his Swedish orchestra responds to him very well. Just as impressive is pianist Descharmes, who handles the technical challenges with seeming ease. © 2017 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, July 2017

Descharmes is wonderful. He captures to perfection the airy meringue and sweet fillings of Saint-Saëns’s confections, and he dazzles with brilliant technique, lightness of touch, and tonal finesse.

…the Second Concerto goes much better than the First, and Descharmes proves himself to be more than a worthy contender in these works. His responses to Saint-Saëns’s fast-paced, playful passagework and to the broad, chorale-like melodies feel natural and invariably right. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review

Marc Rochester
MusicWeb International, June 2017

The grand opening is beautifully poised and Descharmes manages the transition into the gentle main theme superbly. The entry of the orchestra after the piano has stated this theme is possibly a touch heavy-handed, as are Soustrot’s very pronounced hairpin dynamics as the music moves on to the lovely second theme, but the magical way in which he allows the music to ebb and flow does much to reveal the glorious logic and craftsmanship of Saint-Saëns’ writing.

The disc also gives one of several short pieces Saint-Saëns wrote for piano and orchestra; the Allegro appassionato of 1884. This is very much a tour-de-force for piano, switching across passages of brisk filigree work and reflective pathos with only occasional interjections from the orchestra. Descharmes’ fleet-fingered approach makes light work of the rapid passagework, and he is quick to draw into himself for the more introspective moments. This is an intelligent and satisfying performance of music which wears its heart on its sleeve and fills its six minutes with such fertile material one feels it is more like ideas for a longer work than something intended to stand on its own. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, June 2017

SAINT-SAËNS, C.: Piano Concertos, Vol. 1 - Nos. 1 and 2 (Descharmes, Malmö Symphony, Soustrot) 8.573476
SAINT-SAËNS, C.: Piano Concertos, Vol. 2 - No. 3 / Rhapsodie d’Auvergne / Africa / Caprice-Valse (Descharmes, Malmö Symphony, Soustrot) 8.573477

For a number of reasons Saint-Saëns’s second and third concertos, composed just a year apart, didn’t do well at their premieres. The latter, the least recorded of the five, certainly has an imposing mien that sets it apart from its predecessors. Some of the sonorities are startling, and Soustrot, alive to such shifts, makes the most of them. Descharmes is equally receptive, those unsettling chords and dark harmonies exploited to the full. Indeed, it’s not difficult to hear why this concerto is less popular than the others, but this committed, strongly characterised performance should win it a raft of new friends.

The folksong-centred Rhapsodie d’Auvergne, which belongs in the first category, really deserves to be better known. The piano part—wistful, the past half-remembered—is pure delight, thanks to the affectionate, unmannered way in which it’s delivered. A hidden gem, this. Africa, which draws on the composer’s travels on that continent, is not short of sparkle, either. Even though I know the piece well, nothing prepared me for Descharmes’ superb control of the work’s distinctive syncopations. And if that weren’t praise enough, he despatches the ‘Wedding Cake’ waltz with true Gallic charm. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

David Hurwitz, April 2017

These performances demonstrate a thoroughly “French” sensibility. Romain Descharmes savors the music’s charm and brilliance without indulging in excessive sentimentality. The First Concerto, with its surprising wiring for horns, has a breezy freshness that completely disarming. It’s played with joyful directness and a complete lack of affectation. I enjoy fast and dazzling versions of the Second Symphony, with its whirlwind finale, but Descharmes treats the piece with almost epicurean relish, nowhere more so than in this sassy, witty account of the central scherzo. There’s no lack of virtuosity, but also time to savor the music’s many harmonic delights.

Through it all, Soustrot accompanies with total confidence, and the sonics are terrific. A disc to savor. © 2017 Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2017

There was a time when the five piano concertos from Camille Saint-Saëns were a regular part of the concert repertoire, but more recently have been much neglected. In content and style they very much differ from one another, having been composed over forty years of his long life, and often, as in the case of the first two, with a large time gap separating them. The Second reached the ‘pop’ classic standing in the mid-part of the last century, its three movements all of a vivacious nature and sparkling like vintage champagne, the solo part festooning the orchestra with its elaborate decoration. Often a fabulous virtuoso showpiece that requires very nimble fingers, you must recall its 1868 year of composition which pre-dates Tchaikovsky’s concertos and Rachmaninov was not yet born. The First concerto, written in 1858, has similar attractions, but the young composer—seemingly to show his academic credentials—inserted a slow and rather sombre slow movement, that does not really work. Place the work in the caring hands of the young multi-award winning, Romain Descharmes, and it is shaped with so much affection that avoids the frothy nothingness that has so often been passed-off in recorded performances as being the composer’s style. That care is equally true of the conductor, Marc Soustrot, and the Malmö orchestra, who treat both scores as a work of stature and substance. You will have to play the disc in quite a high volume setting, but it does possess total clarity at the keyboard and creates depth in the orchestral texture. This is the first disc in a complete recording of the Saint-Saëns piano concertos, the delightful Allegro appassionato here added as an encore. My top disc of the month. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group