Movement 1: Allegro non troppo
Movement 2: Andantino quasi allegretto
Movement 3: Molto moderato e maestoso – Allegro non troppo
The finale begins with another abrupt key-switch, not straight back to B minor but to its close relative, E minor. Like Mendelssohn in his violin concerto, Saint-Saëns prefaces his last movement with an introduction—not meditative as in the earlier work, but a boldly dramatic dialogue in the style of a recitative. The main part of the finale has a bright, march-like character, and far from being the conventional lightweight concerto finale, it’s the most extended, complex movement of the three. There’s a wealth of memorable themes—a passionate subsidiary motif, a broad second subject, and a chorale which appears as quiet contrast but returns near the end in triumphal style to set the scene for a brilliant conclusion. One of the most impressive features of this concerto is the way Saint-Saëns integrates the element of virtuosity. No longer is the music divided neatly into cantabile or brilliant passages; instead, the virtuoso character can appear at any time, to add drama, excitement, or a decorative quality to the music. Certainly, Saint-Saëns ‘knows everything’. In this vivid, spirited work he shows more than technical wizardry. He knows how to enthrall and move us.
from notes by Duncan Druce © 1999