Paganini/Saint-Saens

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COMPOSERS: Paganini/Saint-Saens
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D; Havanaise; Introduction & Rondo capriccioso
PERFORMER: Sarah Chang (violin)Philadelphia Orchestra/Wolfgang Sawallisch
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 55026 2 DDD
This outstanding new issue brings together three extraordinary musical prodigies: Saint-Saëns, Paganini and Sarah Chang. Saint-Saëns launched his official concert career at the age of ten; Paganini was 13 when he embarked on his first concert tour, and, after a highly successful debut disc and recording of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, the 13-year-old Sarah Chang here offers her third CD.

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Chang recorded Paganini’s First Violin Concerto in 1993, when still only 12 years old; however, this version offers much more than mere technical display by a Wunderkind. Sympathetically accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Chang gives a performance of exceptional elegance and perception. Her subtle blend of impudent boldness, dazzling virtuosity and expressive warmth in the first movement; powerfully dramatic, almost operatic, expression in the second, and exploitation of the finale’s intrinsic vivacity produces an enthralling musical result.

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Chang’s seemingly intuitive grasp of musical line and sensational purity of tone are also excellently suited to the two Saint-Saëns pieces here offered as coupling. The Havanaise’s gently lilting, lyrical background (from which virtuosic embellishments seem to flow naturally) and the beautifully wistful Andante in the Introduction and Rondo capriccioso (that gives way to a glittering portrayal of Saint-Saëns’s showier side) make a deep and lasting impression. Nicholas Rast