Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto n°5 in F major op.103 "L'Egyptien"

Duration : 36 minutes

Emmanuel Krivine conducts the Orchestre national de France performing the Piano Concerto n°5 in F major op.103 "L'Egyptien" by Saint-Saëns, with Bertrand Chamayou. Concert recorded live on 13 September 2018, at the Radio France Auditorium, Paris.

"We are generally unaware of Saint-Saëns's many talents, ex-child prodigy too often considered a musical academic", writes musicologist Anne Foisy. "A virtuoso pianist and organist, film music composer, passionate astronomer and gardener, this great traveller, welcomed everywhere with open arms, was also a pioneer: he was the first French to compose a symphonic poem, the first pianist to perform the entire works for piano by Mozart, and the first to renew interest in this previously ignored genre, yet very popular elsewhere!"

From 1858 to 1896, Saint-Saëns composed five piano concertos, the last composed twenty years after the Piano Concerto no.4. It was composed in part in Louxor in 1895, and premiered the following year in Paris. The commonly associated nickname "Égyptien" ("the Egyptian") is above all expressed through its oriental and extremely stylised motifs used by the composer. The three movements follow one another with the technique and brio commonly associated with Saint-Saëns, an undoubtedly Parnassian composer. 

Anne Foisy follows even further the oriental voyage created by the composer: "The soloist stands out from the initial Allegro animato, in which the first abounding theme, virtuosic in character, is immediately made clear; it contrasts with a more lyrical second minor theme, extremely tender, heard again at the very end of the movement, just before the Andante, the only "exotic" moment of the entire work. 

The principal melody, full of syncopation and altered intervals, "is a Nubian love song I first heard sung by the boatmen on the Nile", explained the composer. Adding to this mysterious oriental atmosphere, the piano adds various surprising sound effects, bringing to mind gongs and gamelans. This unfamiliar scenery ends with a string tremolo, whose rustling slowly evaporates into thin air... The stunning final Molto allegro sounds like a movement in perpetual effervescence, ending in a whirlwind of "crackling octaves", as described by Alfred Cortot. "

Bertrand Chamayou
Full concert
Brahms, Lalo and Saint-Saëns by Bertrand Chamayou and the Orchestre national de France
Auditorium de Radio France
Camille Saint-Saëns
Camille Saint-Saëns
All artists
  • Emmanuel Krivine
    Emmanuel KrivineConductor
  • Orchestre National de FranceOrchestra
  • Bertrand ChamayouPerformer