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Cat. No. CHAN 9837 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 9837 - Saint-Seans: La Princesse Jaune · Suite Algérienne
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Available From: 17 August 2000
‘La Princesse jaune’ (The Yellow Princess) came about in the autumn of 1871 because the Director of the Opéra-comique, Camille Du Locle, was having trouble fulfilling his promise to mount Saint-Saëns’s first, full-length opera ‘Le Timbre d’argent’; theatres were hard-pressed in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War and the revolutionary Paris Commune. So Du Locle suggested that Saint-Saëns collaborate with a young poet, Louis Gallet, on something more straightforward in one act. The result was what Saint-Saëns later referred to as ‘that innocent little work’, explaining that ,’at the time, things Japanese were all the rage, so we set sail for Japan and ‘La Princesse jaune’ was born’. But as Du Locle was not keen on things oriental, a compromise between Japan and Holland was struck, and it was duly premiered in 1872.

Saint-Saëns wrote a polished and sophisticated operetta which was castigated for its Wagnerian tendencies although the touches of ‘japonisme’ are delicate and lightly sketched. It is an intimate work, with two soloists and an off-stage chorus which sings only once.

The ‘Suite algérienne’ reflects Saint-Saëns’s love of Algeria, (he was eventually to die there). The theme for the third movement actually came to him on his first visit in 1875 and the piece originally stood alone under the title ‘Rêverie orientale’. After it was performed with great success at a charity concert in Paris in 1879, Saint-Saëns’s publisher urged him to write more ‘picturesque’ pieces like it. The Suite was complete in the summer of 1880 and first performed in December of that year with great success.
Reviews

The japonaiseries of Saint-Saënss music are made from delicate instrumental tracery, pentatonic sales and vocal melisma. This enchanting performance conveys its lightness and sophistication…
The Telegraph

 

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