MUSIC AND DANCE

SAINT-SAENS: Piano Works. Anton Nel, piano. Musicmasters Classics 01612-67083-2. The question is whether there exists enough decent piano music by Saint-Saens to fill an hourlong disc eventfully. The answer: not really, at least not here. Every one of the 11 works offered, to be fair, probably turned out exactly as the composer intended; they never fall below the level of perfect competency. But neither do they rise above mere inventiveness. Two pieces for left hand alone, a bouree and an elegy, interest for spareness and resourcefulness; there is also a nifty toccata, a knowingly crafted gavotte. Still, this recording, smartly and spiritedly performed by 1987 Naumburg winner Nel, only confirms the impression that, for Saint-Saens, composition came all too easily.

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