The majority of Saint-Saëns’s shorter concertante works – sixteen in all – are rarely performed. Of the four pieces for piano and orchestra the most colourful is the Fantasy Africa, begun in Cadiz in 1889 and completed in Cairo in 1891. In need of convalescence after serious illness and the death of his mother, Saint-Saëns embarked on a cruise which took him to Ceylon for nearly three months, and then, on the return journey, to Egypt. His study of North African folk music is reflected in this attractive pot-pourri, with its abundance of melodic material, much of it syncopated. The climax is based on a Tunisian folk-tune.
from notes by Phillip Borg-Wheeler © 2001