This disc in Hyperion’s ongoing Romantic cello concerto series pairs Natalie Clein with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Andrew Manze.
Clein’s playing is superb throughout, bringing plenty of punch and personality to Saint-Saëns’ brilliant (and more popular) first concerto. The second is a real Lisztian trial, where the drama is not just musical but in the soloist’s physical exertion – it’s a proper workout of big and fast leaps, thickets of double stopping, but also draws on the cello’s lyrical qualities. Clein is more than equal to the task.
La muse et le poète, a one-movement work for violin, cello and orchestra (with Antje Weithaas the co-soloist), is a less remarkable work in itself but this performance brings plenty of style to make up for its slight lack of substance. The disc is rounded off with a couple of encores, the pop song-length Allegro Appassionato for cello and orchestra and ‘The Swan’ from Saint-Saëns’ best known work, The Carnival of the Animals.
Spanning nearly 40 years of Saint-Saëns’ career, the selection gives a good snapshot of a body of work which, while fairly conservative and overshadowed by the great stylistic strides of more celebrated contemporaries, is nevertheless rich, imaginative and unique.
By Kimon Daltas