Lionel Bringuier: Saint-Saëns Violin & Cello Concertos
In the Violin Concerto, Renaud Capuçon and the conductor provide a lesson in how to generate rubato organically from the material, taking Saint-Saëns’s frequent dolce and tranquillo markings as guides towards a wholly coherent reading of the work. If there’s not much ‘quasi Allegretto’ about the tempo they take for the middle movement, all I can say is that (irritatingly for us pedants) their slower speed works. The brass band version of the choral in the finale sounds as curiously vulgar as ever: we must take comfort from the thought that, played by a late 19th-century French band, it would have sounded much worse… Elsewhere, the soloist’s tone and technique deserve the highest praise.
The two soloists join forces in the fine La muse et le poète, finding both the tenderness and the pain and sombreness noted by a Parisian critic of the premiere. I’m a good deal less happy about the imposed slower tempos in the Cello Concerto, which smack of self indulgence. Also the cellist’s bowing under pressure tends to be scratchy. But the central dance, a Minuet in all but name, is delightful, not least because the rhythms emerge as printed. The recording is clear and spacious.