Saint-Saëns Arrangements for 2 Pianos Volume 3

Given the 'romantic' nature of these two sonatas, Saint-Saëns could have been forgiven for producing two-piano versions that treated the originals as bases for his own imaginings. In fact, as far as a fourth party can judge, he has been scrupulous in respecting the composers' intentions. Wherever either piano is playing on its own, it plays the original text. Beyond that, of course, are the host of more complex textures where Saint-Saëns has felt free to add notes for extra emphasis. Perhaps the most satisfying admixture of colour comes in the Chopin Funeral March, where extra low octaves in the bass boom like the beating of a bass drum. But throughout, the relative, new-found simplicity of each piano part allows performers to phrase more subtly. No doubt Liszt had these points in mind when he considered making such a transcription of his sonata, alas never realized. But he greatly admired Saint-Saëns as both composer and pianist, and one cannot but imagine he would have approved his fine arrangement.  © 2020 Roger Nichols

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…For volume three there is a change of duo to the equally excellent partnership of Hiro Takenouchi and Simon Callaghan, both of whom are inveterate explorers into the byways of the repertoire. The two works here are by no means the byways; both are core repertoire and multiple versions of both fill my collection as I'm sure they do for many collectors. What is unusual is to hear them in two piano versions; I have heard broadcast performances of these arrangements but have not previously come across recordings so it good to have them together in wonderful performances and excellent sound.

Again there are textural additions that put chords and melodies higher up the keyboard. In the Grandioso section this certainly helps with the tune which for a single player has to compete against thickly textured repeated chords; here the tune rings out easily in bright octaves. In the following cantando espressivo there is a glorious moment where the melody is gently played, almost bell like, against falling quavers which in the original have to be divided between the single pianist's hands.


… the playing here is top notch. While they are both olympian in tackling the huge virtuoso demands their ensemble is unassailable in writing that at times must push co-ordination to its limits. The sound is marvellous and I will return to the Liszt just to hear the delicate beauty of much of the playing in the andante sosteuto; the pianissimo scales in the F-sharp major section are a real hold-your-breath-moment.

Music Web International – Classical Review

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