Saint-Saëns: Symphonic Poems

Reviewed on Mon 14 May, 2018

Jun Märkl secures fine and committed playing, and leads good accounts (if a tad literal and small-scale) without necessarily overriding existing favourites.

It’s always a pleasure to listen to Camille Saint-Saëns’s melodious, well-crafted, innovative and – here – vividly descriptive music, whether the brassy summonses and galloping glinting rhythms of Phaéton, the generously lyrical Hercules, the circular motions and buoyant decorations, if becoming sinister, of Omphale’s Spinning Wheel, or the midnight chimes and skeletal shenanigans of Danse macabre, fun in a graveyard cued by a ghoulish fiddler. Jun Märkl secures fine and committed playing, and leads good accounts (if a tad literal and small-scale) without necessarily overriding existing favourites. It’s an attractive collection of the Frenchman’s symphonic poems, though, supplemented enjoyably by the jaunty Marche héroïque (a foot-tapper and an earworm rolled into one) and that’s before the soft-centre Trio arrives. Also included are a heartfelt Sarabande, with courtly Baroque tendencies (anticipating Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances), and an exuberant Rigaudon that swings pleasingly, enough for the listener to loosen contact with the chair!
–Colin Anderson