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Marc Rochester
MusicWeb International, April 2018

A disc of discrete musical pleasures, performed with great affection. © 2018 MusicWeb International Read complete review

James Manheim, April 2018

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. © 2018 Read complete review

John Whitmore
MusicWeb International, March 2018

Guillermo Pastrana performs the cello solos with fine musicianship and Jun Märkl conducts with taste, avoiding any sort of bombast. The Basque National Orchestra plays beautifully for him and the sound is of a high calibre. © 2018 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Christie Grimstad, February 2018

Pleasantly filled with infinitesimal roulades, BNO’s rendering is justifiably owed an intense spotlight. Sparkling harp, a coy oboe lead-in and gentle graces notes, in the very least, help capture the score’s demureness. …This is truly one of Camille Saint-Saëns’ best kept secrets. Belle et fragile.

No detailing by Maestro Märkl is overlooked. If Camille Saint-Saëns gives you joy and a withdrawal into sophisticated elegance, this one’s for you… © 2018 Read complete review

Pizzicato, February 2018

Charming music from Saint-Saëns in relaxed and nicely shaped performances. © 2018 Pizzicato

Stephen Smoliar
The Rehearsal Studio, February 2018

…Saint-Saëns could serve up a level of intimacy that was not often encountered during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Listening to Märkl’s performance, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the original orchestral setting was about as distant from a blaring high school band as one could get. Instead, each of the four movements provides its own expression of how much Saint-Saëns loved his visits to Algeria. Indeed, the music is so affectionate that it is easy to overlook the extent to which the Algerians never thought much of France as a colonial power!

Similar affectionate spirits can be found in the other two suites that Märkl recorded, Opus 49, which is an orchestration of music originally written for harmonium, and the orchestra version of the Opus 16 suite for cello and piano. (The cello soloist for the latter is Guillermo Pastrana.)

Taken as a whole, the album is a delightful reminder that even music from the nineteenth century did not always have to plumb profound depths but could be enjoyed for far simpler pleasures. © 2018 The Rehearsal Studio Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2018

As Saint-Saëns’ music has been disappearing from the concert repertoire this past forty years, it is invaluable that we have this fine series of recordings from Naxos. Here the label move to Spain for the outstanding Basque National Orchestra, the German-born conductor, Jun Märkl, removing the misplaced belief that the composer was the creator of French musical confectionery. For Saint-Saëns, his favourite holiday destination was Algeria, where he was to die in 1921, his Suite algérienne created, not from picture-postcards of the country, but the feel of being there. In mood and tempi it is very varied, the final Marche militaire francaise here taken just a little too fast for marching, but making a brilliant conclusion with the heavy brass and timpani pushing up the temperature. Totally different in every aspect, the Suite in D major was written in homage to three French Baroque dances surrounded by a Prelude and Finale. It is essentially a pastoral score that started life as a work for the highly popular harmonium published in 1863. Likewise the Suite in D minor began as a salon work for cello and piano with Baroque dances as its inspiration. The orchestrated version, that added two movements, but retained the solo cello, was not completed until 1919. It is not a showpiece score until we reach the final Tarentelle, but it is one requiring delicacy and beauty, qualities abundantly offered by the Spanish-born Guillermo Pastrana. The short and gentle Serenade has appeared in many guises, though it is now forgotten in them all, the orchestral version ending the disc. Excellent sound quality. Strongly recommended. © 2018 David’s Review Corner

Records International, February 2018

The Suite algerienne is an exotic musical picture postcard full of perfumed sensuality reflecting the composer’s visits to colonial North Africa. The two suites on this recording are both structured around dance movements and were originally scored for different forces the Op. 49 (1863 orch. 1869) for harmonium, the Op. 16 (orch. 1919) for cello and piano. The engaging Serenade, Op. 15, rarely performed with its original, exotic scoring for piano, organ, violin and viola, is heard here in an orchestral transcription. … © 2018 Records International

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