Saint-Saëns: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A; Violin Concerto No. 2 in C; Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor

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COMPOSERS: Saint-Sa‘ns
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A; Violin Concerto No. 2 in C; Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor
PERFORMER: Philippe Graffin (violin); BBC Scottish SO/Martyn Brabbins
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67074
At this stage of the game it’s probably too late to claw back for Saint-Saens more of a reputation than he now has as composer of The Carnival of the Animals. Were it possible, however, then Hyperion’s disk of the three violin concertos would be in the vanguard of the offensive, both for the excellence of its production and for the sheer panache of the scores themselves.

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The third concerto, as it happens, has never lacked leading exponents, and soloist Philippe Graffin, in matching note for note its sure invention and panache, rises to the challenge of his predecessors. Ably supported by Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, he is no less confident in conveying the breathtaking symphonic intensity of the second concerto, which was the first in fact to be composed, and is one of those unknown pieces that mocks the safety of a concert repertoire confining itself to standard classics. In the first official concerto that was actually Saint-Saens’ second, youthful energy is channelled into a three-in-one form that flows like Lisztian innovation from the pen of a superior Mendelssohn. Those, in fact, were the composer’s lifelong co-ordinates; remarkably fruitful ones to the ears of his admirers. Nicholas Williams