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SACD Review

Camille Saint-Saëns

Quartets for Piano, Violin, Viola & Cello

  • Piano Quartet in B Flat Major, Op. 41
  • Piano Quartet in E Major
  • Barcarolle for Violin, Cello, Organ & Piano in F Major, Op. 108
Mozart Piano Quartet
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG9431519-6 58m DDD Hybrid Multichannel SACD
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Although Camille Saint-Saëns is officially credited with just one piano quartet, the well known Op. 41, he actually wrote 3 works in the genre. This superb MD&G recording groups the whole lot together. The Quartet in E was composed while Saint-Saëns was still a student in the middle of the 19th century, but it had to wait till 1992 to be published. The work is structured in the traditional three movements, with an extensive first movement, a sumptuous song like middle section, and a breezy virtuoso "finale".

After a twenty year wait the composer returned to the form to write his famous Op. 41. The work is a highly effective creation drawing on the recent Germanic developments of the form and comprises four motivically interconnected movements full of imaginative ideas and sparkling melodies.

The Barcarolle was composed in 1898 as a quartet for violin, cello, piano and harmonium, but this combination did not satisfy the composer and eleven years later he substituted a viola for the harmonium. In this latter version the work has somehow survived, and although it is certainly not one of Saint-Saëns' big hits, its soft and lilting tunes make it a wholly pleasing little gem.

The Mozart Piano Quartet has this music under their skin, and their persuasive and stylish playing is consistently joyous throughout. Indeed these interpretations are a fine advert for some of Saint-Saëns least performed pieces (the Op. 41 apart). Detailed notes and refined sound quality complete an issue that deserves the warmest of recommendations.

Copyright © 2009, Gerald Fenech