Uzbek-born pianist Anna Malikova is best known for her interpretations of music by Chopin. She has performed and recorded both concertos, the complete etudes, preludes, and impromptus, and numerous individual solo works. But Malikova is hardly a specialist: she plays a wide range of compositions, taking in large segments of the outputs of J.S. Bach, Soler, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Saint-Saëns, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich. She has toured extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America, and has performed with many of the world's leading ensembles, including the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and the major orchestras of Warsaw, Moscow, Sydney, Oslo, Tashkent, and others.
Though it was the least well received by its intended dedicatee – Pablo de Sarasate – the third violin concerto of Camille Saint-Saëns has endured as one of his most popular concertos along with the A minor Cello Concerto and the Third Piano Concerto. The earlier two violin concertos, each written some 20 years before, are still noteworthy, lively concertos, but lack the same emotional impact and maturity of the seasoned B minor Concerto. What they may lack in depth is made up for with pyrotechnic virtuosic displays, perhaps explaining Sarasate's fondness. This Naxos album places the B minor Concerto first, ending with the C major Concerto, a program order that curiously seems to place the bigger "bang" finish at the beginning, closing with a less emphatic note.
From bar one, I felt an assurance and naturalness about the rhythms, a clarity and tonal richness in the orchestral and vocal texture, a stylishness of phrasing and embellishment, and a sheer zest and power of dramatic presentation that add up to a totally convincing and gripping whole. […] Neumann and his team have excelled themselves, and so has Handel, and anyone who thinks 18th-century music wanting in musico-dramatic force is urged to acquire this magnificent set without delay.
The essence of Camille Saint-Saëns' music comes through perhaps most clearly in his music for solo instrument and orchestra, which exemplifies his elegant combination of melody and conservatory-generated virtuosity. The two cello concertos are here, plus a pair of crowd-pleasing short works for piano and orchestra, and the evergreen Carnival of the Animals, with pianists Louis Lortie and Hélène Mercier joining forces along with a collection of instruments that includes the often-omitted glass harmonica. There are all kinds of attractions here: the gently humorous and not over-broad Carnival, the songful cello playing of Truls Mørk, and the little-known piano-and-orchestra scene Africa, Op. 89, with its lightly Tunisian flavor (sample this final track). But really, the central thread connecting them all is the conducting of Neeme Järvi and the light, graceful work of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; French music is the nearly 80-year-old Järvi's most congenial environment, and in this recording, perhaps his last devoted to Saint-Saëns, he has never been better.