Saint-Saëns: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 5 & Pieces for Solo Piano
Eight years ago, on a trip to Paris, I visited Saint-Saëns’s tomb at Montparnasse Cemetery. Not out of some kind of morbid curiosity, but instead to commune with a composer whose music I love but feel is now unfairly overlooked for the more imposing Romantics. Bertrand Chamayou’s recording of Saint-Saëns’s piano music is a timely reminder of the composer’s brilliance and inventiveness. Not only that, the album serves to highlight Chamayou’s formidable pianistic talent. Although no pianist myself, I would hazard a guess that Saint-Saëns’s dramatic and superabundant Piano Concerto No. 2 is rather a fiendish beast for your average musician. Chamayou, however, is no slouch, and from the unaccompanied opening arpeggiated chords and scalic runs of the first movement, to the playful skipping melody of the second movement, that he remains in command is, frankly, absolutely commanding.
In Saint-Saëns’s music there is no rest for the wicked, and the following Piano Concerto No. 5 is similarly virtuosic and challenging in its demands of the pianist. While the solo works – a mazurka, a handful of etudes, and the Valse nonchalante – provide the listener’s ears with a rest from Saint-Saëns’s occasionally grandiloquent orchestral writing, Chamayou is again put to task, and – naturally – impresses.