SAINT-SAENS: Violin Concerto No. 3 / Caprice Andalous (Antoni Wit/ Beata Jankowska/ Dong-Suk Kang/ Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550752)
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Camille Saint-Sa?½ns (1835 - 1921)
Introduction and Rondo capriccioso in A Minor, Op. 28
Romance in C Major, Op. 48
Caprice andalous in G Major, Op.122
Morceau de concert in G Major, Op. 62
Violin Concerto No.3 in B Minor, Op. 61
Camille Saint-Sa?½ns enjoyed a long and prolific career as a composer. As ayounger man he was a leading supporter of newer tendencies in French music: inold age his opposition to Debussy, whom he outlived by three years, earned him adeserved reputation as an enemy of w hat was seen as progress. His latercritics, who could hardly dispute his technical command, wrote of bad music wellwritten, an unmerited jibe at a composer who had achieved much in a variety offields. An admirer of Mozart, he was known to some as the French Mendelssohn,and his music always possessed the clarity of form and texture common to theseearlier composers, elements that influenced his friend and pupil Gabriel Faureand, vicariously, Faure's own pupil Maurice Ravel. Gounod referred to him asthe French Beethoven, and these flattering comparisons are evidence of theesteem in which he was held.
In his personal life Saint-Sa?½ns was not always fortunate. As a boy he wasbrought up by his mother and his great-aunt, two women to whom he was devoted,the latter his first teacher. His marriage at the age of fort y to anineteen-year-old, to his mother's marked disapproval, was predictablydisastrous and was brought to an end, after the death of his two young sonsthrough illness and accident. In 1881 Saint-Sa?½ns, on holiday with his wife,simply walked out, never to return. For the remaining forty years of his life,and particularly after the death of his mother in 1888, he lavished affection onhis dogs and on his pupil Faure, whom he had first met as a student at theEcole Niedermeyer in Paris in 1861.
A child prodigy as a pianist, Saint-Sa?½ns entered the Paris Conservatoire in1848, studying the organ with Benoist and composition with Bizet's father-in-law Halevy. After earlier positions as organist, in 1957 he became organistat the Madeleine, where his improvisations made a profound impression on Liszt.
His own catholic musical tastes led him to do much to revive interest in Francein the music of Bach, Handel and Mozart, while his progressive interests led himto an appreciation of Wagner, of Schumann and of the innovative symphonic poemsof Liszt. In 1871 he shared in the establishment of the societe Nationale deMusique for the encouragement of contemporary French music, although, as theyears passed, he found the new world of music unacceptable.
Saint-Sa?½ns added very significantly to violin repertoire, with threeconcertos for the instrument, in addition to a number of shorter works forviolin and orchestra. The most popular of these last is the Introduction andRondo capriccioso, Opus 28, written in 1863, during his brief period as apiano teacher at the Ecole Niedermeyer. Saint-Sa?½ns dedicated this, as well ashis first and third concertos, to the Spanish virtuoso Pablo Sarasate. The Introductionand Rondo capriccioso and the Caprice andalous of 1904 makeconsiderable use of Spanish rhythms and turns of phrase, something to beexpected in the second of these two works. The third of his violin concertos,written in 1880, has much in common with the single-movement Morceau deconcert in G major, Opus 62, of the same year, to all intents and purposes aconcerto first movement in itself. These, with the Romance in C major,written in 1874, all furnish splendid examples of the composer's clarity of formand texture, his idiomatic handling of the violin, and at the same time bearwitness to a certain conservatism, at least in the Caprice andalous of1904, written two years after the first performance of Debussy's Pelleas etMelisande. The Caprice shows the same facility and is in much the sameimpeccable idiom as music Saint-Sa?½ns had written fort y years earlier, and isnone the worse for that.
Dong-Suk Kang first came to the attention of the concert-going public when hewon both the San Francisco Symphony Competition and the Merriweather PostCompetition in Washington, D.C., thereafter going on to win important prizes inseveral international competitions, among them the Montreal, the Carl Flesch inLondon and the Queen Elisabeth in Brussels. In his highly successful career hehas appeared with many of the great orchestras of the world in major cities fromLos Angeles and Philadelphia to London, Paris and St. Petersburg, incollaboration with some of the most distinguished conductors of our time. Hisrecordings have won critical acclaim, with awards that include the Grand Prix duDisque of the Academie Charles Cros and the Nouvelle Academie du Disque.
The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Katowice (PNRSO)
The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Katowice (PNRSO) was foundedin 1935 in Warsaw through the initiative of well-known Polish conductor andcomposer Grzegorz Fitelberg. Under his direction the ensemble worked till theoutbreak of the World War II. Soon after the war, in March 1945, the orchestrawas resurrected in Katowice by the eminent Polish conductor Witold Rowjcki. In1947 Grzegorz Fitelberg returned to Poland and became artistic director of thePNRSO. He was followed by a series of distinguished Polish conductors - JanKrenz, Bohdan Wodiezko, Kazimierz Kord, Tadeusz Strugala, Jerzy Maksymiuk,Stanislaw Wislocki and, since 1983, Antoni Wit. The orchestra has appeared withconductors and soloists of the greatest distinction and has recorded for PolskieNagrania and many international record labels. For Naxos, the PNRSO will recordthe complete symphonies of Tchaikovsky and Mahler.
Antoni Wit was born in Cracow in 1944 and studied there, before becomingassistant to Witold Rowicki with the National Philharmonic Orchestra in Warsawin 1967. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and with Penderecki and in1971 was a prize-winner in the Herbert von Karajan Competition. Study atTanglewood with Skrowaczewski and Seiji Ozawa was followed by appointment asPrincipal Conductor first of the Pomeranian Philharmonic and then of the CracowRadio Symphony Orchestra. In 1983 he took up the position of Artistic Directorand Principal Conductor of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra inKatowice. Antoni Wit has undertaken many engagements abroad with majororchestras, ranging from the Berlin Philharmonic and the BBC Welsh and ScottishSymphony Orchestras to the Kusatsu Festival Orchestra in Japan.