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lautomne de 1853, un journal r mineur de Mozart. En 1901, le grand


anglais notait que la Socit pdagogue Isidore Philipp rsuma fort
Sainte-Ccile de Paris venait de bien les qualits du jeu de Saint- Sans :
rvler avec grand succs une symphonie Il est impossible de jouer du piano avec
dun auteur anonyme qui se rvla tre plus de hardiesse et de sret, avec plus
Charles-Camille Saint-Sans, g de 18 de calme et dautorit, plus desprit, de
ans et dj estim comme pianiste au rythme, de vie, de naturel. Les textes les
jeu brillant, lgant et un peu froid. Que plus audacieux, les plus ardus, conservent
le correspondant anglais ait connu le tout sous ses doigts dacier une transparente
jeune Saint-Sans prouve la notorit clart. Sa sonorit se plie aux nuances
vite acquise au-del des frontires ; quil les plus dlicates. Sa personnalit plutt
soit surpris de dcouvrir ses talents de tempre quexubrante sidentifie aussi
compositeur relve de ltonnement bien avec les classiques quavec les
habituel de lpoque devant cette modernes, et son interprtation de tel
combinaison de dons qui semblent mal concerto de Mozart ou de telle fantaisie de
accoupls. Liszt neut-il pas souffrir de Liszt sont des pures merveilles de ciselure
cette dichotomie entre linterprte et le pianistique. Il est rvlateur que Philipp
compositeur ? Mais la dfinition du jeu de voque Mozart et Liszt. On pourrait
Saint-Sans devait le poursuivre tout au ajouter Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn,
long de sa carrire, un peu comme sil tait Faur... et Rameau parmi les autres
anachronique de ne pas tre le virtuose compositeurs qui ont bnfici des soins
flamboyant qui foudroie les auditeurs non du pianiste mticuleux. Car Saint-Sans
sans malmener quelque peu les partitions ne sest pas limit linterprtation de ses
soit par des transcriptions, paraphrases et propres uvres. Certes elles forment un
variations acrobatiques pour dmontrer ensemble impressionnant, mais ce nest
ses capacits digitales, soit par irrespect que la partie visible, pour le mlomane
du texte et du style de luvre originale. moderne, dun iceberg pianistique
Clara Schumann ne se plaignit-elle pas constitu aussi par les transcriptions et
que Liszt jouait le Concerto pour piano de paraphrases imagines par Saint-Sans
son poux avec un effroyable mauvais partir duvres dautres musiciens et par
got ? Rien de tel chez Saint-Sans : les transcriptions de ses propres ouvrages
cest la nettet du jeu et la concision du ralises par lui-mme ou par des
discours qui russissent convaincre amis. Lorsque le transcripteur et lami
et charmer les auditeurs. Marcel Proust se confondent en la personne de Liszt, le
y succomba en coutant le Concerto en dbat aussitt slve au plus haut niveau.
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Aussi est-il particulirement heureux rfre cet Allegro, pice tripartite dont
que le prsent programme ait song la partie centrale, de structure souple et
explorer les talents du compositeur, du de caractre plus lyrique, avec un thme
transcripteur et du transcrit, facettes confi aux pouces des deux mains dans le
diverses dun mme univers : celui du registre mdium du clavier, est encadre
piano lpoque du Second Empire et de par deux volets de caractre volubile
la Troisime Rpublique naissante. et emport, un peu la manire dun
Mendelssohn rcrit avec les harmonies
LEtude en forme de valse, compose en des annes 1880.
1877 et ddie Marie Jall, termine le
premier cahier des Six Etudes pour le piano Quant la pice suivante, Le Cygne,
op. 52. Vritable somme de difficults elle devait avoir une histoire agite.
pianistiques tierces, quartes, sixtes, Incorpore dans Le Carnaval des animaux
octaves, arpges et gammes tronqus compos en 1886, puis dtache
jets profusion dans un tempo vif , de lensemble pour faire plaisir au
luvre se veut plus valse imaginaire violoncelliste Charles-Joseph Lebouc qui
que pice danser. Seule la main gauche avait eu lhonneur de crer le Carnaval
semble rappeler parfois le rythme chez lui pour le Mardi-Gras, cette brve
typique trois temps pour aussitt laisser page devait connatre un succs stupfiant
la place au tourbillon des traits chargs ds sa publication en 1887. Saint-Sans
de traduire le tournoiement sinueux fut-il agac par ce succs transformant
et frntique en lequel semble stre luvre en rengaine ? Craignit-il quon
reconnue la socit de la Belle poque ne le prit pour un musicien peu srieux
car lEtude eut un succs considrable et alors que se rpandait sa majestueuse
figura au rpertoire de tous les pianistes Symphonie avec orgue compose la
fin de sicle. Lauteur y avait-il gliss mme poque ? Toujours est-il que,
une touche dhumour narquois pour sil en autorisa quelques excutions,
dmontrer ce que pouvait faire un il interdit la publication du Carnaval
virtuose ? Ce nest pas impossible... Cest jusqu sa mort (luvre entire ne fut
en tout cas aux apprentis-virtuoses que en effet dite par Durand quen 1922).
fut destin lAllegro appassionnato op. Pendant ce temps, Le Cygne avait subi
70 compos en 1884 pour les concours tous les travestissements instrumentaux
du Conservatoire. LEtude avait rvl possibles. Lune des transcriptions les
les doigts dacier voqus par Philipp ; plus fidles est celle excute sur le
cest la ciselure pianistique que se prsent disque. Procure par Emile
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Hoskier, banquier de son tat, pianiste- cet ajustement pour piano deux mains
compositeur amateur, il dut la raliser restent mystrieuses.
avec laide de sa fille Anna, lune des rares
lves de Saint-Sans. Devenue comtesse Trs claires, au contraire, sont les
de Guitaut, elle devait entretenir une motivations de larrangement pour piano
longue correspondance avec son matre, seul du 1er mouvement du 3me Concerto
devenu un ami et prouvant que, par del pour piano en mi b majeur ; les concours
un caractre vif, emport, voire colreux, du Conservatoire, encore, la demande
prt dcocher une flche acre, il de Faur en 1913 ; mais le temps a
pouvait, par sa discrtion et sa sensibilit, manqu pour crire une pice nouvelle.
nouer dindfectibles amitis. Cette Do la reprise du Concerto crit en 1869
pice clbre voque loiseau glissant et difficilement accept sa cration
imperceptiblement sur les eaux calmes cause de ses audaces harmoniques. La
dun lac, au crpuscule dune journe qui suppression de lorchestre fait peut-tre
sapaise. Reprise par Anna Pavlova en perdre au mouvement le ct alpestreque
1905, avec une chorgraphie de Michel Saint-Sans avait cherch traduire au
Fokine, sous le titre de La mort du cygne, dbut de luvre : ruissellement de
luvre devait tre dtourne de sa vraie cascades dans les montagnes, crivit-il,
signification, selon Saint-Sans. Mais Mais lAllegro respectant pratiquement le
elle devait, du mme coup, acqurir une texte pianistique de ce 1er mouvement,
audience populaire et universelle. y gagne un clat figurant, partag entre
des moments de tension pianistique
Rien de tel avec la transcription par intense et de dtente potique cre par
Saint-Sans lui-mme, en 1878, de cette la recherche harmonique, correspondant
petite page de Schumann Abendlied, dailleurs aux deux cadences insres
extrait de lop. 85 originellement pour dans le concerto initial.
piano quatre mains. Serait-ce une
vocation des annes 1860 lorsque, Retour des uvres originales avec les
professeur lEcole Niedermeyer, il jouait trois Mazurkas et la Gavotte en ut mineur.
ses lves les uvres inconnues ou La 1re Mazurka en sol mineur op. 21 date
discutes de Schumann et de Liszt, entre de 1862. Elle est sans doute la plus proche
autres ? Voulut-il marquer linfluence des mazurkas de Chopin, modles dont
incontestable de Schuman sur sa propre sest inspir Saint-Sans qui ne pardonna
manire dcrire, alors quon le taxe jamais son matre Stamaty de lui avoir
toujours de classique ? Les raisons de interdit de rencontrer Chopin, premire
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idole du petit prodige Saint-Sans dans aboutir au vritable chahut organis au
les annes 1840. La 2me Mazurka op. 24, Concert Pasdeloup du 24 octobre suivant.
galement en sol mineur, fut compose en Trop moderne, semblait-il ! Louvrage
1871. Elle scarte davantage, semble-t-il, suscita lenthousiasme de Liszt qui
de la mazurka traditionnelle : ct du dclara quune bacchanale aussi russie
nom de Chopin, ne pourrait-on voquer donnait envie dy participer. Il devait
celui de Grieg par exemple ? Enfin la 3me en faire une transcription-paraphrase
Mazurka en si mineur op. 66, acheve en en 1876, respectant lordonnancement
novembre 1882, ne formerait-elle pas le des pisodes de la version originale
lien entre lharmonie de Chopin et celle de mais y introduisant quelques lments
Faur avec lpisode central introduisant un nouveaux comme le dveloppement du
instant de rverie dans cette pice brillante rle du mntrier infernal au dbut de
qui vise peut-tre plus au concert quau luvre, aprs les douze coups de minuit,
salon, la diffrence de la 1re Mazurka ? comme lpoustouflante cadence qui suit
le chant du coq et la saisissante coda finale
La Gavotte en ut mineur op. 23 fut qui fait vanouir luvre dans le silence des
dabord destine servir dentracte tombeaux referms. Encore Liszt sexcusa-
pour un tableau du Timbre dargent, t-il, en envoyant sa transcription Saint-
opra auquel travaillait Saint-Sans en Sans en octobre 1876, de son inhabilet
1871. Finalement, elle fut publie en rduire au piano le merveilleux coloris de
1872 comme pice isole. Pastiche dune la partition. A limpossible nul nest tenu.
gavotte du XVIIIe sicle, on y remarquera Jouer de lorchestre sur le piano nest
le Trio central utilisant toute ltendue du encore donn personne. Nanmoins il
clavier avec les doubles pdales graves faut toujours tendre vers lIdal travers
et aigus. toutes les formes plus ou moins revches
et insuffisantes. La vie et lart ne sont bons
Enfin, nouveaut absolue pour le disque, qu cela, ce me semble. Un tel idal
ltonnante transcription par Liszt ne serait-il pas de nature rconcilier
de la Danse macabre de Saint-Sans. crateurs et interprtes dont la collusion
Ecrite dabord comme mlodie avec en un mme personnage semblait quelque
accompagnement de piano en aot 1872, peu surprenante au critique anglais
puis transforme en pome symphonique voqu en tte de cette notice ?
en octobre 1874, la cration de luvre
au concert Colonne le 24 janvier 1875 Yves Grard
dclencha des mouvements divers, pour *
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I
n the autumn of 1853, an English the Mozart D minor Concerto. In 1901 the
newspaper noted that the Sainte- great teacher Isidore Philipp summed up
Cecile Society of Paris had just most adequately the qualities of Saint-
revealed with great success a symphony Sans piano playing: - it is impossible
of an anonymous author who turned to play the piano with more strength and
out to be Charles-Camille Saint-Sans, certainty, with more calm and authority;
aged 18, and already esteemed a pianist more spirit or rhythm, life or naturalness.
with a brilliant touch, lgant, although The most audacious and arduous texts
a little cold. The fact that the English maintain a transparent clarity under his
correspondant knew of the young Saint- iron fingers. His sound allows the most
Sans proves the reputation which he delicate nuances. His personality, more
had rapidly gained even outside France; temperate than exuberant, can identify
that he should have been surprised at just as well with the classics as with
his talents as composer springs from the the modems, and his interprtations of
astonishment always accorded at that such a Mozart concerto or such a Liszt
time to a combination of apparently very fantasy are pure marvels of pianistic
dissimilar gifts. Was not Liszt to suffer sculpture. We could add Beethoven,
from this dichotomy between interpreter Chopin, Mendelsohn, Faur... and
and composer? This definition of Saint- Rameau amongst the other composers
Sanss piano playing was to pursue who benefitted from the cares of the
him all his life, almost as if it were meticulous pianist. For, Saint-Sans did
anachronistic not to be the fiery virtuoso not limit him- self to the interprtation
who amazed audiences, often playing of his own works. It is certain that they
around with scores either by transcription present an impressive ensemble, but
or paraphrase or acrobatic variation, in it is only the visible part, for a modem
order to show off his digital capacities music-lover, of a pianistic iceberg
or by lack of respect for the text and the equally constitued by transcriptions and
style of the original work. Did not Clara paraphrase imagined by Saint-Sans
Schumann complain that Liszt played based on the work of other musicians,
her husbands piano Concerto with and by the transcriptions of his own
dreadfully bad taste? None of the sort works realized by himself or by his
with Saint-Sans whose clarity of sound friends. When the transcriber and the
and concise discourse succeeded in friend get mixed up in the person of
convincing and charming the audiences. Liszt, the debate becomes immediately of
Marcel Proust succombed in listening to the highest level. Thus, it is particularly
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pertinent that the programme of this Allegro refers, a piece in three sections
record thought of exploring the talent whose central part, with a supple
of composer, transcriber and composer structure and a more lyrical character,
transcribed by others; diverse facets with a theme confided to the thumbs of
ot the same universe: that of the piano the two hands in the medium register
during the second Empire and the birth of the keyboard, is framed by two light
of the Third Republic. talkative sections, a little bit like some
sort of Mendelsohn rewritten in the
The Study in Waltz form, composed in harmonies of the 1880s.
1877 and dedicated to Marie Jall, finishes
off the notebook of the Six Studies for Piano As for the piece which follows, The Swan,
Op. 52. It gathers together many pianistic it was to have had an agitated history
difficulties thirds, fourths, sixths, behind it. Incorporated in the Carnival of
octaves, arpeggios and scales profusely the Animals composed in 1886, and then
thrown into lively tempos , the work detached from the whole to please the
is more intended as an imaginary waltz cellist Charles-Joseph Lebouc who had
rather than a piece to dance to. Only the the honour of performing the Carnival
left hand, from time to time, reminds us in his home for Mardi-Gras, this short
of the typical three time, immediately to page was to be extraordinarily successful
disappear leaving room for the whirpool as soon as its publication in 1887. Was
of highlycharged figures, as if to translate Saint-Sans annoyed at the success of
the sinuous turnings in which we can this work which risked perhaps his
recognise the Belle Epoque, for the reputation as a serious musician whilst
Study was considerably successful and his majestuous Symphony with organ was
figured in the repertoire of ail the turn being played, composed at the same
of the century pianists. Is there a touch time? It remains that, even if he allowed
of sly humour in the piece, the author a few performances, he was to forbid
showing what a virtuoso can do ? It is the publication of the Carnival till his
not out of the question... In any case the death (indeed, the entire work was only
Allegro appassionato Op. 70 composed published in 1922 by Durand). At this
in 1884 was destined for the apprentice same period The Swan had undergone ail
virtuosos as a piece for conservatoire the possible instrumental variations. One
competitions. The Study had revealed of the most faithful transcriptions is the
the iron fingers mentioned by Philipp; one performed on this record. Procured
it is to the pianistic sculpture that this by Emile Hoskier, banker and amateur
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pianist-composer, he was to realize it On the other hand the reasons are very
with the help of his daughter Anna, clear for his arrangement for piano solo
one of Saint-Sanss few pupils. She of the first movement of the 3rd piano
was to become the Countess de Guitaut Concerto in E flat Major: conservatoire
and maintain a long correspondance competitions yet again, at Faurs request
with her teacher, who had become a in 1913; at a moment when there was not
friend, just to prove that even with enough time to write an entirely original
his lively and even irritable character, piece. And hence the re-adoption of the
he was capable by his discretion and Concerto written in 1869 and received
sensitivity of creating strong bonds of with difficulty at its creation because
friendship. This famous piece evokes of its audacious harmonies. The
the bird gliding imperceptibly along suppression of the orchestra perhaps
the calm waters of a lake at dusk. Re- gets rid of the alpine character that
used by Anna Pavlova in 1905, with a Saint-Sans had tried to translate at the
choreography by Michel Fokine, under beginning of the work: the whispering
the title The Death of the Swan, for Saint- of waterfalls in the mountains he wrote.
Sans the piece was to lose its true However, the Allegro which respects the
meaning, but at the same time it was to piano text of the original first movement
gain universal popularity. gains a certain attack, divided between
moments of intense pianistic tension and
Nothing of the kind with Saint- poetic pauses created by the harmonic
Sanss transcription, in 1878, of the research, corresponding, moreover, to
little Abendlied Op. 85 by Schumann, the two cadences of the initial concerto.
originally for four hands on piano. Could
this be an evocation of the 1860s, when, Return to the original works with the 3
as teacher at the Niedermeyer school, Mazurkas and the Gavotte in C minor. The
he played works to his pupils either 1rst Mazurka in G minor Op. 21 dates
unknown or cast in doubt by Schumann back to 1862. It is without doubt the
and Liszt amongst others? Did he want closest to the Chopin Mazurkas, models
to mark the incontravertible influence which had inspired Saint-Sans, who
that Schumann had had on his own way had never forgiven his teacher Stamaty,
of writing... he, who was always being who had forbidden his meeting Chopin,
accused of being classical? The reason the first of the infant prodigys idols, in
for this readaptation for two hands is the 1840s. The 2nd Mazurka, Op. 24, also
mysterious. in G minor, was composed in 1871. It is
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apparently different from the traditional It appears that it was too modern! The
mazurka: alongside Chopins name work enthused Liszt who declared that
couldnt we add Griegs for example? such a successful bacchanalian festival
Lastly, the 3rd Mazurka Op. 66, in B made one want to participate in it. He
minor, finished in November 1882, would was to write a transcription-paraphrase
perhaps breach the gap between the in 1876, respecting the recommendations
harmonies of Chopin and Faur with the for the episodes of the original piece, but
central episode introducing a moment of introducing some new elements in the
reverie in this brilliant piece which aims development of the infernal minstrel, at
more at the concert hall than the salon... the beginning of the work after the twelve
a diffrence with the first Mazurka. strokes of midnight, like the astonishing
cadence which follows the cocks cry, and
The Gavotte in C minor, Op. 23, was first the gripping final coda which sends the
of all destined to serve as an interval for a piece off to die in the silence of the resealed
tableau from The Timbre dargent an opera tombs. Even so, Liszt apologized, when
which Saint-Sans had been working on he sent his transcription to Saint-Sans
since 1871. It was finally published in in October 1876, for his inaptitude to
1872 as a separate piece. As a pastiche of reduce the marvellous colors of the score
the 18th century Gavotte, we can observe to the keyboard. The impossible remains
the central Trio using the whole breadth impossible. Play the orchestra on the
of the keyboard with double soft and piano is given to no man. Nevertheless,
loud pedals. we should aim for the Ideal across all
the more or less insufficient forms. Life
Lastly, an absolute novelty for the and art, it seems to me, are only good
recording, is the astonishing Liszt for that. Such an Ideal is surely a step
transcription of Saint-Sanss Danse towards reconciling the composer and
Macabre written, first of all, as a melody the interpreter whose collusion seemed
with piano accompaniment in August somewhat surprising to that English
1872, and then transformed into a critic mentioned at the beginning of this
symphonic poem in october 1874, it was article.
first performed in a Colonne concert on
the 24th of January 1875 and unleashed Yves Grard
diverse reactions which were to culminate (translated by Nigel Coastes)
in the organized uproar at the Pasdeloup
concert of the following 24th of October. *
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