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MusicWeb International, February 2013

Burleson writes that the “breadth, brilliance and imagination of Saint-Saëns’ piano works never ceases to inspire me!” Cynics might view these words as mere shrewd marketing, but no—Burleson does not exaggerate the diamond-studded nature of the oeuvre of a composer who is still, despite the popularity of a handful of orchestral works, vastly underestimated. Whoever it was that said that Saint-Saëns was “the only great composer who wasn’t a genius” had the proverbial ears of cloth. He was like the many critics who have since dismissed him—clearly without ever listening to much of his music—as a reactionary or un-self-critical composer. It was not on a whim that Hans von Bülow described him “the greatest musical mind of our time”, nor that Liszt declared him the world’s greatest organist!

In fact, Saint-Saëns was widely considered one of the finest pianists of his or any time, and sceptics need only listen to Burleson’s rewarding recordings, especially in volumes 2 and 3, to begin to understand why. The Six Bagatelles were Saint-Saëns’ first published work for piano, but they are bagatelles only in the way those by Beethoven are. In fact, their poetic beauty, saturated with evocative, often poignant lyricism, is typical of the composer’s writing for his instrument. There is scarcely a work in Burleson’s recital that does not belong at the heart of any pianist’s repertory. Even the three-minute Feuillet in A flat is—as befits Saint-Saëns’ final published piano work—a delightfully tender miniature that ought to be popping up in encores all over the place.

As one might imagine, Saint-Saëns the composer always gave Saint-Saëns the pianist plenty to do in performance, although the virtuosity never approaches vulgarity. Burleson rides the musical waves like a bronzed champion surfer. © MusicWeb International Read complete review

Bryce Morrison
Gramophone, December 2012

Certainly there is much of interest in Vol 3 of his cycle. In the second Bagatelle you hear the influence of Schumann’s Florestan…in writing as colourful as it is pianistically adroit. The Op 72 Album offers music of a fuller, more advanced idiom, with the shadow of Liszt in his later dark-hued manner hanging over ‘Carillon’ and with an elegant ‘Valse’ to follow…

The Rhapsodie d’Auvergne…fizzes with energy after its folksong start and the ambitious 1867 Caprice has a notably witty finale. Yet arguably the most personal voice is found in Les cloches du soir and in the concluding Feuillet d’album…all this music is played with verve and commitment by Burleson… © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2012

We move to the poetic Saint-Saëns in the third disc of his complete piano works, including his first published keyboard works in two books of Bagatelles. A child prodigy who made his Paris debut at the Salle Pleyel at the age of ten and was only twenty when he completed these six engaging works. They are all quite short and mainly lightweight, their melodic content pleasing and very memorable. Technically only the mercurial Fifth presents the challenges of his later pieces, and ten years later he was making considerable demands in the six pieces included in the Album, each one given a descriptive title, the central Toccata requiring a display of dexterity, while the big and bold finale has a Germanic weight that harks back to the darker aspects of Schumann’s music. The finger-knotting and vivacious Rhapsodie d’Auvergne is, to my ears the disc’s major attraction, its abundant charm and ear-catching melodies of the most pleasing character. The final three short tracks are ‘music to play at home’ and take us to the final published solo piano work, the Feuillet d’album. The American pianist, Geoffrey Burleson, who has already given much pleasure in the series, is our reliable tour guide in excellent recorded sound. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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