SAINT-SAËNS Camille, Caprice sur des Airs Danois et Russes, Op.79
Saint-Saëns wrote this piece for a series of concerts that he gave for the Red Cross in St Petersburg in April 1887. It is dedicated to Maria Feodorovna, Empress of Russia, and the composer wrote it for himself to play on piano with three other specific players in mind: flautist Paul Taffanel, oboist Georges Gillet and clarinettist Charles Turban. For the sources of the tunes, Saint-Saëns wrote to Julien Tiersot, the leading French expert on traditional music at the time, requesting suitable Danish and Russian themes. Before leaving for Russia, the work was rehearsed in Paris, and Saint-Saëns invited the singer and composer Pauline Viardot to hear the new piece, after which he travelled to Russia with Taffanel, Gillet and Turban.
Following a flamboyant introduction, Saint-Saëns introduces a succession of traditional themes, varies and repeats them, and occasionally mixes them together, all composed with his characteristic inventiveness and skill.
Nigel Simeone © 2012