There is a recurrent theme running through the program presented by the Dena Piano Duo in this production; all four composers and works have a particular relationship to Edvard Grieg. Both Johannes Brahms and Camille Saint-Saëns were friends of Grieg, and in several of his works the inspiration Grieg gained from his colleagues in Vienna and Paris is easy to hear. In between the works of Brahms and Saint-Saëns the Dena Piano Duo play two Norwegian works they have commissioned from the composers Wolfgang Plagge and Terje Bjørklund with this recording in mind.
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.
"The five piano concertos of St.-Saens are not frequently heard and that is a shame in view of the endless repeats of the Tchaikovsky, Grieg and Schumann warhorses. They are all well-composed examples of the best of French instrumental music of the later 19th century and full of lovely melodies that would appeal greatly to concert audiences. I hadn’t enjoyed any of them for some time and it was a pleasure to have these two concertos in enveloping hi-res surround. … Orchestration is very colorful, with solos originating in the winds and strings." 4/5 ~audiophile-audition