An unusual all Saint Saens programme for the very enterprising Roma 3 Orchestra.The eclectic Sienese pianist Ludovico Troncanetti from the school of Leslie Howard played his own arrangement for chamber orchestra of the 3rd piano concerto dedicated to the illegitimate son of Alkan.
The Septet op 65 for an unusual combination of instruments that include a trumpet as it was commissioned by La Trompette music society.
The delightful Caprice Waltz op 76 -written for the wedding of a friend of Saint Saens Caroline de Serres and thus known as the Wedding Cake Caprice.
All played with the bright clear tones that Saint Saens demands and a serious intent for this very interesting rarely heard repertoire.Lacking maybe the charm ,jeux perlé and nonchalance of the period for which Saint Saens was undisputed master.
The Valse-Caprice, Opus 76, for piano and strings dates from 1886. Its ‘Wedding Cake’ nickname was because it was a wedding present for the composer’s pianist friend Caroline de Serres and is a captivating gem, beautifully written and wholly characteristic of the composer’s art.
The Piano Concerto No. 3 in E-flat major, Op 29 by was composed in 1869 and is in 3 movements. When the concerto was first performed by Saint-Saëns himself at the Leipzig Gewandhaus it was not well received, possibly because of its harmonic experimentation. It was dedicated to Elié -Miriam Delaborde,a pianist who is believed to have been the natural son of Charles – Valentin Alkan.
It is interesting to delve into the life of Delaborde who was generally believed to be the illegitimate son of the composer and pianist Alkan and one of his high-class married pupils.Delaborde was the maiden name of Antoinette, mother of George Sand the author and sometime lover of Alkan’s friend Chopin Some writers have seen some significance in this. Alkan’s withdrawal from public life had also coincided with the birth and upbringing of Delaborde. Alkan and Delaborde also shared several similarities such as their similar skill in playing the pedal piano and both of them being parrot enthusiasts.He was a pupil of Alkan, Liszt,Moschelese, and Henselt.He made successful tours of England, Germany and Russia, and travelled with Vieuxtemps and Wieniawski.During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, he escaped from France to London with his 121 parrots and cockatoos.He also shared his rooms with two apes, one of which he named Isadora, in honor of his pupil Isidor Philipp.In 1873 he was appointed professor at the Paris Conservatoire, where his pupils included Olga Samaroff (Hilda Hickenluper)one-time wife of Leopold Stokowski (Leonard Stokes)Delaborde was a fencer, a passionate athlete, a bon vivant and a ladies’ man. He also painted under the pseudonym “Miriam”, and was a close friend of Manet and Bizet and his wife and may have been indirectly responsible for Bizet’s death, which followed a swimming competition between the two, as a result of which Bizet caught a chill.After Bizet’s death, Delaborde formed an alliance with Bizet’s wife Geneviève and it is thought that Delaborde and Geneviève were having an affair even before Bizet’s death.The two had signed a marriage contract in August of 1876, but they never actually got married.
The septet is dedicated to Emile Lemoine, a mathematician and amateur trumpet player who in 1867 founded a chamber music society called La Trompette. Saint-Saëns and other well known musicians would often perform at the concerts of the society.For many years, Lemoine had asked Saint-Saëns to compose a special piece with the trumpet to justify the name of the society, and in 1879 presented to Lemoine a piece titled Préambule as a Christmas present, later promising to complete the work with the Préambule as the first movement.The complete septet was successfully premiered on 28 December 1880. The string quartet was doubled at the premiere – in Saint-Saëns’ opinion, it made a stronger impact that way. The work was first published in March 1881
In its obituary notice, The Times commented:
The death of M. Saint-Saëns not only deprives France of one of her most distinguished composers; it removes from the world the last representative of the great movements in music which were typical of the 19th century. He had maintained so vigorous a vitality and kept in such close touch with present-day activities that, though it had become customary to speak of him as the doyen of French composers, it was easy to forget the place he actually took in musical chronology. He was only two years younger than Brahms, was five years older than Tchaikovsky, six years older than Dvorak and seven years older than Sullivan. He held a position in his own country’s music certain aspects of which may be fitly compared with each of those masters in their own spheres.
In a short poem, “Mea culpa”, published in 1890 Saint-Saëns accused himself of lack of decadence, “His sympathies are with the young in their desire to push forward, because he has not forgotten his own youth when he championed the progressive ideals of the day.”The composer sought a balance between innovation and traditional form. The critic Henry Colles, wrote, a few days after the composer’s death:In his desire to maintain “the perfect equilibrium” we find the limitation of Saint-Saëns’s appeal to the ordinary musical mind. Saint-Saëns rarely, if ever, takes any risks; he never, to use the slang of the moment, “goes off the deep end”. All his greatest contemporaries did. Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and even Franck, were ready to sacrifice everything for the end each wanted to reach, to drown in the attempt to get there if necessary. Saint-Saëns, in preserving his equilibrium, allows his hearers to preserve theirs.
Berlioz made his well-known bon mot about Saint-Saëns, “He knows everything, but lacks inexperience” (“Il sait tout, mais il manque d’inexpérience”)