Total Playing Time: 01:07:27
The very first release on Naxos new Grand Piano Label, this CD contains all three sets of ingenious and virtuosic piano etudes by the great French romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns. The works span textures and moods ranging from spellbinding intensity to ethereal delicacy. Some take Bach and Chopin as departure points, and a few even anticipate the impressionistic realms of Debussy and Ravel. The final of the three sets, Op. 135, is for the left hand alone, and is modeled on suites by the great French Baroque composers Couperin and Rameau. This release initiates a 5 volume set of Saint-Saëns complete piano works that Burleson is recording for the new label. Available from Naxos, Amazon, iTunes, HMV, Arkiv, Barnes & Noble, eMusic, and elsewhere.
Naxos, Catalogue No: GP601, released in 03/2012
Burleson's first recording on Naxos's new Grand Piano label exudes clarity and grace. These three sets of Saint-Saëns piano etudes abound in technical challenges, and Burleson is certainly up to meeting them. The Op. 52, No. 3 prelude remains crisp and delicate despite its breathless repetitions, and the sensitively articulated accompanying fugue employs intricate chromaticism that echoes Bach. Of the Op. 111 set, No. 5, Tierces majeures chromatiques, with its constant exploitation of chromatic major thirds in either hand, is performed with impressive control. Burleson also explores Saint-Saëns's rich stylistic variety, from the impressionistic Op. 111, No. 4 to the playful ragtime of Op. 111, No. 6. Concluding with the inventive, often poignant Op. 135 Études for the Left Hand Alone, this excellent disc showcases what promises to be an engaging collection of Saint-Saëns's complete piano works.
Sang Woo Kang, Clavier Companion
Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) composed three sets of Etudes: Op. 52 in 1877, Op. 111 in 1899, and Op. 135 in 1912. This is how Burleson has chosen to auspiciously begin his projected five volumes of his complete piano music. As the inaugural release on the new Grand Piano label, it bodes well for what should become a great label for piano music. Only a brilliant piano technician can perform these 18 knuckle-busters, and Burleson is such a pianist…his ability and stamina to get through these and make music out of them is nothing short of amazing. The first two sets of Etudes are as difficult as Chopin’s and Liszt’s. Often dealing with a single technical problem, they are inventive and effective. The last set is for the left hand alone and in a different musical world. Burleson has just the right panache to bring these off. Recorded sound and booklet notes (by Burleson) are absolutely first class.
-Steven J Haller, American Record Guide
Here we have a truly extraordinary disc. Saint-Saëns' etudes are among the most difficult and demanding piano music ever written. Geoffrey Burleson certainly has an ironclad technique, which is fortunate because the first and third etudes of the Op. 52 set (as with others in all three series) are so fiendishly difficult that only a master technician would have the temerity to perform them in public. As the series progresses, the music becomes more melodic, as in the Prelude and Fugue in A (No 5), but the first series ends with another staccato finger-buster. The last of the 3 sets of etudes, Op. 135, is for the left-hand alone. Burleson plays these rather lightly, with an occasional lilt at the end of phrases and touches of rubato, and he manages to make No. 4 (the Bourée) sound lightly dancing and lyrical. Burleson has the usual dazzling technique and exuberance that so many young pianists today possess.
Lynn René Bayley, Fanfare
This is definitely music for the relatively mature student with aspirations to the highest levels of nineteenth-century virtuosity. Most impressive is the appearance of prelude-fugue couplings, two in Opus 52 and one in Opus 111. Burleson does much to engage the listener. He has a keen ear for phrasing that goes beyond the demands of technical exercise. Most important, he appreciates the challenges of listening to counterpoint and attenuates his control of the individual voices in ways that elucidate the intricacies of Saint-Saëns' compositional (rather than merely technical) skill.
-Stephen Smoliar, Examiner.com
The first disc contains the complete 18 ingenious Etudes in 3 groups: Op. 52 (1877), Op. 11 (1899), and six for the Left Hand alone Op. 135 (1912). They are not merely technical studies. The first set mixes exuberant virtuosity with shimmering delicacy, while the second pays homage to Chopin and Bach, with a hint of Ravel's future impressionism. The third group is neo-baroque, modelled on Couperin and Rameau. They are played witht the required flair and style by the soloist. Highlight: The haunting "Bells of Las Palmas", Op. 111, No. 4.
-Geoff Adams, Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)