Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Beethoven via Saint-Saëns, Bartlett and Robertson

Camille Saint-Saëns, c. 1875
Beethoven's birthday is upon us again (Dec. 16), and, to celebrate, I present the finest set of variations known to me on one of his themes by someone other than Beethoven himself.  This is Saint-Saëns' 1874 set of variations for two pianos, based on the Trio of the Menuetto from the Piano Sonata No. 18 in E-Flat, Op. 31, No. 3 - and notice how Saint-Saëns works in, at the very beginning of this piece, a sly reference to another great sonata from the same opus, the "Tempest" Sonata, with his arpeggios running up the keyboard in different keys!  The performance here is another gem by Bartlett and Robertson, from their all-too-meager series of recordings for HMV from the early 30s:

Saint-Saëns: Variations on a Theme of Beethoven, Op. 35
Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson, duo-pianists
Recorded July 22, 1932
HMV C 2483 and C 2484, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 42.31 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 25.38 MB)

I am aware of only three recordings of these Variations made during the 78-rpm era; this is the second.  The first was by Georges Bertram and Karol Szreter for French Odeon in 1927, and the last was a Victor set by Pierre Luboshutz and Genia Nemenoff issued in 1940.


  1. Bryan, Thanks for posting this, [a] because it's quite enjoyable, and [b] the
    text answers my question about label sizes -- thus killin' two stones with
    one bird! Mike

    1. LOL - admit I was thinking about you when I wrote that! Glad you enjoyed it...