Lemelin; Canada's National Arts Centre Wind Quintet
Caprice sur des airs danois et russes for piano, flute, oboe and clarinet Op. 79
Clarinet Sonata in E flat major, Op. 167
Oboe Sonata in D major Op. 166
Bassoon Sonata in G major, Op. 168
Romance, Op. 67
arr. for horn and piano
Tarantelle in A minor for flute, clarinet & piano/orchestra Op. 6
Wholenote Discoveries - March 2011
For some the name Saint-Saëns may evoke the musty ectoplasm of the Danse macabre or, likewise ghastly, the Carnival of the Animals embellished with Ogden Nash verses intoned by a tanned and taut celebrity. Actually, Saint-Saëns was a serious composer of high calibre, an extraordinary piano prodigy who wrote successfully in every genre. This disc of works for winds and piano brilliantly performed by National Arts Centre Orchestra principals reveals the wealth of expression and imagination within the composer’s classical French orientation. In the clarinet, oboe and bassoon sonatas of 1921, the 85-year-old composer is still at his peak. Of these “swan songs” the clarinet sonata is the most extended and varied of the three, while the oboe sonata conveys a sense of antique classicism. The pure, pensive repose of the bassoon sonata is rendered effectively by Christopher Millard. Its opening movement pays homage to Saint-Saëns’ close lifelong associate Gabriel Fauré in its chromatic twists of harmony. The final movement with its slow tempi and absence of virtuosity is particularly affecting. The early Tarantella and the Caprice on Danish and Russian Airs are unique, attractive works for upper winds with piano. Some pianists come to grief with the virtuosity of Saint-Saëns’ chamber music, but not Canadian pianist Stéphane Lemelin who is a specialist in nineteenth-century French repertoire. Immaculate ensemble work between winds and piano is notable throughout. Rounded off by the Romance arranged for horn and piano, the disc is a must-buy for woodwind and chamber music enthusiasts. Roger Knox
Gramophone Editor's Choice - March 2011
Celebrated as one of the most successful and gifted composers of his day, Saint-Saëns wrote music for woodwind instruments throughout his long career. This recording presents music from his early days as the ‘bright young thing’ on the Parisian music scene to the last year of his life.
Canada’s renowned National Arts Centre Wind Quintet joins Stéphane Lemelin, a laureate of the Robert Casadesus International Competition, to interpret these assured and beautiful works which combine virtuosity, gentle wit and thoroughly French charm.