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Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61 [1880] [28:53]
La Muse et le Poète, Op. 132 [1910] [16:36]
Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33 [1872] [30:13]
Renaud Capuçon (violin); Gautier Capuçon (cello)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France/Lionel Bringuier
rec. Salle Pleyel and Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, no date supplied
WARNER ERATO 9341342 [65:48]

Violinist Renaud Capuçon and his cellist brother Gautier are joined here for an all Saint-Saëns programme by the young French conductor Lionel Bringuier and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. They are all evidently fine musicians and cannot be faulted in matters of taste and technique. 

Many collectors will already own the two concertos here but are less likely to know the rarely heard piece which lends its title to this disc, the ‘Duet for Violin, Cello and Orchestra’, La Muse et le Poète. Saint-Saënscomposed it while in Egypt. It is a sweetly plaintive, gently Romantic and sometimes even rhapsodic but not especially memorable work. At first, the two solo instruments call to and answer each other in figures built around falling fifths and octaves. They are accompanied by strumming harps and pizzicato strings. The violin seems to be coaxing the cello into more elaborate excursions upwards and perhaps as such acts as the Muse to the cello’s Poet. There follows an impassioned middle section for the cello before first the violin, then the cello, ponder reflectively until the music works itself up into an energetic finale.
The Violin Concerto, Saint-Saëns’ third, opens with an arresting, sweeping theme which is generously shaped by brother Renaud. The Andante sings and the faintly conventional but, as ever with Saint-Saëns, well-crafted finale is taut and elegant. The main ideas in the Cello Concerto are once more derived from exploiting the interval of a fifth, first fast, then reflective. Gautier Capuçon’s warm tone and his deft, delicate bowing make the most of the old-fashioned minuet in the slow movement. Then he broadens and intensifies his manner to encompass the demands of the big, bold finale.
My comparison for the two concertos was with the Sony compilation recording featuring soloists Yo-Yo Ma and Cho-Liang Lin (SMK 66935). I found them both to be more febrile and individualistic than their Capuçon counterparts. The Capuçons who are typically Gallic in their refinement and are served by better, more modern digital sound.
This is a fine disc neatly combining a rarity with first class performances of two deservedly acclaimed concertos.
Ralph Moore

Previous review: Michael Cookson (October 2013 Recording of the Month)