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Hyperion Records

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Afternoon in the Park by Hippolyte Petitjean (1854-1929)
Phillips Fine Art / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67431/2
Recording details: July 2004
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Release date: May 2005
Total duration: 15 minutes 52 seconds

'…this is a set of sheer delight: let's hear it for imaginative conservatism' (Gramophone)

'These are full-blooded performances, packed with energy and colour, and every corner is turned under complete control' (BBC Music Magazine)

'It is repertoire that really shows up the ensemble's strengths and its ability to encompass the richest ensemble-playing, as well as the exposed solo work required of the accompanied sonata medium … there is plenty of mellifluously drawn melodic writing, playful harmonic twists and textural ingenuity to enjoy' (The Daily Telegraph)

'It is a charming collection, beautifully played; this is precisely the repertoire in which the Nash excels … The opening cantilena of the Oboe Sonata is positively rapturous … just as the mysterious fugal introduction to the finale of the early Piano Quintet [is] fabulously played by cellist Paul Watkins and violist Lawrence Power' (The Guardian)

'[The] Sonatas are all played with an ideal combination of infectious virtuosity and phrasal sensitivity to have these all-too-rarely heard works come dancing off the page. Sensational flautist Philippa Davies is on hand to add her own special brand of artistry … and producer Andrew Keener and engineer Simon Eadon typically capture the proceedings with their usual magical blend of warmth and clarity, making this an issue to cherish. The Nash Ensemble could hardly wish for a finer musical testimonial in this their fortieth birthday year' (International Record Review)

'a splendid two-disc set … mounted with that special sparkle they always bring to French repertoire' (The Times)

'A legend in his own lifetime, Saint-Saëns tantalises us with distinctive, lively and imaginative pieces, explored and played with terrific vivacity and style' (Classic FM Magazine)

'The Nash Ensemble, a British organisation that alters its makeup as the situation requires, has a long and distinguished history on record. This latest offering continues the tradition. Warmly recommended' (Fanfare, USA)

Clarinet Sonata in E flat major, Op 167
composer

Allegretto  [4'21]
Allegro animato  [2'10]
Lento  [4'22]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Saint-Saëns’s most durable contributions to the chamber literature have been his sonatas: two for violin and piano, two for cello and piano, and one each for oboe, clarinet and bassoon, each with piano accompaniment. It was during the last year of his life that Saint-Saëns conceived the idea of writing a sonata for each of the woodwind instruments, thus enhancing their repertoire and providing three monumental works for the sonata literature. Starting with Oboe Sonata in D major Op 166, dedicated to Louis Bas, an extraordinary oboe virtuoso, he continued with the Clarinet Sonata in E flat major Op 167, dedicated to Auguste Perier, a fine player of astonishing technique, and lastly, with the Bassoon Sonata in G major Op 168, written for Léon Letellier, the first bassoon of the Opéra and the Société des Concerts. Saint-Saëns had intended also to compose sonatas for flute and for cor anglais but he died before he was able to complete the project. In each sonata the piano is skilfully integrated with the wind instrument. The distinctive timbre and versatility of each instrument are expertly displayed. The spare, evocative, classical lines, haunting melodies, and superb formal structures underline these beacons of the neoclassical movement. Though the works were not performed during his lifetime, Saint-Saëns did have the satisfaction of knowing that the sonatas were approved by their dedicatees. Their importance in the woodwind repertoire cannot be exaggerated.

from notes by Sabina Teller Ratner © 2005

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