4F de Télérama -
Gramophone Record of the Year -
Choc de Classica
For French pianists who don't approach the task in a sympathetic spirit, the nearly obligatory early-career Saint-Saëns recital can seem a chore, for both pianist and listener. Not a bit of it here. Pianist Bertrand Chamayou and the Orchestre National de France under Emmanuel Krivine absolutely nail the Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 22, with a performance notable for its combination of small detail and energy. Saint-Saëns is sometimes criticized, and indeed sometimes rightly, for being a by-the-book conservatory composer, but what to make of the unusual shape of this concerto, with its Allegro middle movement and lack of a true slow movement? Sample that middle movement, which is overflowing with melody, or the solo passage at the very beginning of the concerto, exquisitely carved out by Chamayou. The Piano Concerto No. 5, Op. 103 ("Egyptian"), with its supposedly authentic Nile tribal melody in the slow movement, is suitably colorful and exotic, and there are also gems among the rarely played small piano works that close out the program. The Etude, Op. 52, No. 6 ("En forme de valse"), which is just what it says, in the form of a waltz, but not quite a waltz, is an inspired choice. Chamayou tackles the various technical challenges with aplomb, and Erato contributes unfussy sound from a pair of sessions at the Radio France Auditorium. As good a place as any to start with the piano music of Saint-Saëns.