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Camille Saint-Saëns: Piano Concertos n° 1 in D major, opus 17 [1], n° 2 in G minor, opus 22 [2], & n° 4 in C minor, opus 44 [3]
Louis Lortie (piano), Daniel Bell (concertmaster) [1, 2], Zoë Beyers (concertmaster) [3], BBC Philharmonic, Edward Gardner (conductor)
Recording: MediaCityUK, Salford, England (January 4, 5 and 13, 2018) – 70’58
Chandos #CHAN 20031 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English, German and French

Though debonair Saint-Saëns was the indulgent stuffy conservative, the music composed over a lifetime made a penetrating thumbprint during the French Romantic era. Equivocating with progressive Lisztian and Wagnerian forces, his anthology endures like architectural columns of neoclassical form with novel touches swaying beyond Baroque and Classical finesse. Born on October 9, 1835, Camille Saint-Saëns easily slips into a Libran outline, one of sense for balance and proper equilibrium. In this regard, however, the scores’ opposing forces have an admirable, cogent feel which is why French-Canadian Louis Lortie is such a premier candidat de choix to lithely touch each of the three Piano Concertos.

Having performed for over 30 years as an international soloist, including a collection of 45 recordings under the Chandos Records label, M. Lortie has a marked persuasiveness and dedication. Fearlessly driven, he’s an “athletic keyboardist”: quick on turns, nimble in might, penetrable in liquidity.

The fenêtre ouverte to Louis Lortie’s discernments is grandly pronounced in the opening movement of the Concerto n° 1 with its Mendelssohnian fervor and hinting brushes of von Weber’s Euryanthe. Bearing exhibitions of vibrant arpeggios and versatile scales reveal M. Lortie’s astounding detailing on the finest level. His story continues during the moody gravitas entrée of the “Andante sostenuto quasi adagio” which, altogether, is flip-sided in the conclusive Beethovenian “Allegro con fuoco.”

We hear how enlivened this pianist shimmers of elegance and amiable servitude, for example, inside the Concerto n° 4, affably adumbrating Saint-Saëns’ 1886 Symphony n° 3 in C minor “Organ”: Louis Lortie tips his hat forward with stately runs and scintillating decorum. Leave no doubt, the listener is left with unquestionable satisfaction.

The epitome of Saint-Saëns’ weights and measures, however, is best centered upon the Concerto n° 2 and its daring gyrations. Furthermore, the best expository of the 59 year old pianist’s technical prowess is revealed during the penultimate “Allegro scherzando” and its Puckish hints from Henry Litolff’s Concerto symphonique n° 4. Fabulous! This is not to be outdone by the conclusive hopping and dizzying “Tarantella.” Nimble tempestuousness, combined with strategic pedaling make the capture a momentous and striking event.

Having a close affinity to piano works by Frédéric Chopin (M. Lortie is currently poised to record all of the solo piano compositions), one can’t be surprised by how well matched Louie Lortie is to Camille Saint-Saëns’ Concertos: herein lies a remarkable spirit that invades the airwaves. Blistering delight with the touch of every key.

Louis Lortie’s Website

Christie Grimstad




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