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The Equinox String Quartet
JDT3005

String Quartet, Op. 153: Camille Saint-SaŽns

    I Allegro animato
    II Molto adagio
    III Interlude et Finale

String Quartet, Op. 112: Camille Saint-SaŽns

    I Allegro
    II Molto allegro quasi presto
    III Molto adagui
    IV Allegro non troppo

Sound Samples:
Track 1. Camille Saint-Saens: String Quartet in G Magor, Opus 153: Allegro animato
Real Audio | Windows Media
Track 5. String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 112 - Molto allegro quasi presto
Real Audio | Windows Media
Track 6. String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 112: Molto adagio
Real Audio | Windows Media

 

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Notes from The Debut CD

String Quartet in G Major, Op. 153 (1918)

I Allegro animato: After a joyous fanfare figure, this ebullient movement unfolds with compelling logic and a feeling of inevitability.

II Molto adagio: A lovely nocturne in musically "pastel" tones

III Interlude and finale: After a stately and reflective opening, Saint-SaŽns playfully evokes the four open strings (E/A/D/G) of the violin. This series of notes makes various appearances, both overt and hidden, throughout the last movement. The lovely first theme is partially derived from these tones.

String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 112 (1899)

I Allegro: A miracle of "Beethovenesque" development, Saint-SaŽns constructs virtually the entire movement (indeed the entire quartet) from the interval of the falling major second (the appoggiatura F# to E appearing in the first violin in the opening passages).

The movement is steeped in the aforementioned melancholy.

II Molto allegro quasi presto: A highly syncopated virtuoso movement with "moto-perpetual" inspiration. The middle section is celebratory and festive in flavor.

III Molto adagui: A lovely composition with a long opening cantilena reminiscent of, or perhaps more properly, anticipating, Mahler.

IV Allegro non troppo: An energetic and dramatically satisfying Finale.

Camille Saint-SaŽns (October 9, 1835 - December 16, 1921) is one of the most fascinating and seminal figures in French music. In the course of an exceptionally long professional career, he composed over 800 works, enriching the keyboard repertoire alone by some 80 pieces.

His masterworks include much of the worlds most beloved music, including the Organ Symphony, the Cello Concerto, the Opera "Samson & Delila", and the Carnival of the Animals.

Endowed with an incandescent intellect, Saint-SaŽns was an amazingly facile and technically adept musical master. At the age of two-and-a-half he taught himself to play the piano; at three he produced his earliest compositions. At ten, at his first public piano recital, he captured international attention by offering to play, by memory, any of the 32 Beethoven sonatas as an encore. His brilliance astounded his older colleagues. "He knows everything...but lacks inexperience," quipped Berlioz of his friend and protege. Gounod heralded him as "the French Beethoven." Liszt, who considered him the finest organist in the world, paid for and mounted the first public appearance (in Weimar) of Samson & Delila.

Although Saint-SaŽns could be an ardent and persuasive champion of "progressive" music (Wagner, Liszt, Schumann, Moussorgsky, et al) his own music epitomizes the French taste for "classically" impeccable craftsmanship, moderation, clarity, and balance:

"I ran after the chimera of purity of style and perfection of form...The artist who doesn't feel completely satisfied with elegant lines, harmonious colors or a fine series of chords, does not understand art."

One of Saint-SaŽns important contributions to French music was the founding (with Romain Bussine) of the Societe Nationale de Musique in 1871, which gave inspiration to, and a forum for, works by young contemporaries, including D'Indy, Chausson, Dukas, and Ravel. In addition to his musical career, Saint-SaŽns occupied himself with scholarly pursuits in the fields of astronomy, archaeology, botany, geology, lepidoptery, poetry, philosophy, and even the occult.

His public success and prodigious intellectual activity notwithstanding, Saint-SaŽns was nevertheless a rather acerbic and lonely man. His strongly voiced musical opinions ultimately cost him many would-be supporters. His enemies claimed that the music did not live up to its promise, and that the admittedly elegant creations were devoid of the spirit and substance that was embodied in more "progressive," dramatically conceived music. His bitterness over this assessment only reinforced his tendency towards misanthropism (it is well documented that he much preferred the company of animals to that of people).

Heaped on all this is personal and domestic tragedy: in 1878 he lost both of his young children to an accident and illness. Holding his wife responsible, he walked out on the marriage without formal separation or divorce, never to see her again. The frame of mind that these situations engendered contributed, no doubt, to the pessimism expressed in the Saint-SaŽns book "Problems et Mysteres", in which atheism is advocated. It is no surprise then, that much of Saint-SaŽns' music is tinged with melancholy, albeit an asthetically transmogrified melancholy that is exalted, bittersweet, and profoundly touching and pleasurable.

Notes by Ron Levy, 9/97


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