Hyperion Records

Six Études pour la main gauche seule, Op 135
composer

Recordings
'Saint-Saëns: The Complete Études' (CDA67037)
Saint-Saëns: The Complete Études
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67037 
Details
No 1: Prélude: Allegretto moderato
No 2: Alla fuga: Allegro non troppo
No 3: Moto perpetuo
No 4: Bourrée: Molto allegro
No 5: Élégie: Poco adagio
No 6: Gigue: Presto

Six Études pour la main gauche seule, Op 135
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The left-hand Op 135 Études are distinctive and in a world removed from the other two sets of Études. Caroline de Serres née Montigny-Rémaury was Saint-Saëns’ duet partner and the dedicatee of his ‘waltz-caprice’ Wedding Cake, Op 76, a gift for her second wedding in 1886. In 1912 her right hand was operated on and she requested a set of studies for her left hand alone. Robert Casadesus, in conversation with Dean Elder, tells a different story. He was under the impression that Saint-Saëns had written the Études for the best students of his good friend Louis Diémer, the dedicatee of Franck’s Variations symphoniques. Because Casadesus was the teacher’s pet (chou chou), Diémer gave him the Bourrée, considered the best piece of the set. He played it for Saint-Saëns himself. One wonders how Saint-Saëns reacted! That grande-dame of French playing, Jeanne-Marie Darré, who played all five Saint-Saëns Concertos in one evening in 1926, described Saint-Saëns as “very boorish, you know, not amiable”. For Opus 135 Saint-Saëns becomes neo-Classical, recreating old dance forms from harpsichord suites, inspired by his life­long interest in the works of Couperin and Rameau. These are unpretentious pieces, but beautifully textured and intelligently designed. They were avidly studied by Ravel before he wrote his Concerto pour la main gauche.

The Prélude, in G major, gently contrasts arpeggiated chords and sustained melodic fragments. The Alla fuga continues in the same key. Thankfully, its strutting subject is only taken up by one other voice, but the two attain a stretto on the final page and achieve quite a lot of contrast on their ‘flight’. The Moto perpetuo which follows is marked ‘softly and calmly, without speed and very evenly’. It would be easier to play faster—but therein lies the challenge! Its gentle ups and downs innocently explore different keys and registers, reaching a forte climax before evaporating. Then to the vigorous Bourrée with its middle section a forty-eight-bar G pedal point! The Élégie is decked in entirely different garb from the other five pieces. Its probing Romantic phrases contrast curiously with its surroundings. The second section does recall the opening Prélude with its arpeggiated chords, but there the connections end. It must have been this piece which Ravel found so helpful in 1929. It is quite lovely. The Gigue, though, provides a predictably presto conclusion, with occasional rhythmic displacements for spark and a witty descent at the end.

from notes by Piers Lane © 1998

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67037 track 16
Prélude: Allegretto moderato
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-98-03716
Duration
2'11
Recording date
13 December 1997
Recording venue
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Amanda Hurton
Recording engineer
Tony Faulkner
Hyperion usage
  1. Saint-Saëns: The Complete Études (CDA67037)
    Disc 1 Track 16
    Release date: October 1998
Licensing
1.Audio tour Amazing Rare Things - Holyrood House, Edinburgh. Antenna Audio Production
2.Audio tour The Whalehead Preservation Trust, Corolla, North Carolina USA. Antenna Audio Production
3.Audio tour Pisarro: Milwaukee Art Museum, 2007
4.Audio tour Pierre Bonnard: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA, 2009
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