Saint-Saëns: Works for Violin and Orchestra performed by Tianwa Yang

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COMPOSERS: Camille Saint-Saëns
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Saint-Saëns
WORKS: Caprice andalou; Romance in C; La Muse et le Poète; Morceau de concert; Havanaise; Romance in D flat; Introduction et Rondo capriccioso
PERFORMER: Tianwa Yang (violin), Gabriel Schwabe (cello); Malmö Symphony Orchestra/Marc Soustrot
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573411

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As anyone who has encountered her Sarasate series (also for Naxos) will testify, Tianwa Yang is a remarkable player with a scintillating technique, interpretative sensitivity and soaring tonal purity. It’s ideal for Saint-Saëns, whose violin writing was greatly influenced by Sarasate.

Yang’s intuitive way with the Hispanic style is evident immediately from her elegantly swung account of the Havanaise, in which the sultry opening habanera is taken at a more flowing tempo than usual and the following headlong semiquavers are thrown off with captivating deftness. She proves no less persuasive in the Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, and if Michael Rabin’s tonal succulence remains uniquely beguiling (Capitol/EMI/Warner with the Hollywood Bowl SO under Felix Slatkin), Yang’s sleight-of-hand virtuosity and ear-ringing intonation make for a thrilling experience. Yet it is in the lesser-known works where Yang really comes into her own. The chaste simplicity of her phrasing in the heart-warming Caprice andalou is matched by a silvery, effortless dexterity almost impossibly free of audible position-changes. Her narrow, almost tremulous vibrato imparts a haunting expressive intensity to the C major Romance and (most especially) La Muse et le Poète (with cellist Gabriel Schwabe), refuting utterly any sense of waning creative powers in Saint-Saëns’s later years. 

Julian Haylock