Le Cygne done wrong

c: | f: /

Cello and piano: a gorgeous instrument combination when applied to such fantastic pieces as The Swan. At least, in most cases.

Of all the musical output by Saint-Saëns, The Swan is probably his most famed, and it’s easy to see why. It’s beautifully arranged, has soul, passion, melancholy, drama, and solitude. The rest of The Carnival of the Animals from which it’s taken is utterly twee in comparison.

What I don’t get is how someone can take that piece of music and dare ruin it. I can’t make out whether the following recording — allegedly Music Video of the Year 2009 — is a joke or if the cellist is tone deaf. For starters, his perpetual glissando fingering is deeply irritating and sucks the heart out of the piece. It just descends into a series of connected sounds played without conviction or emotion. To top it off, a fair few of the notes are gratingly out of tune.

But maybe it’s just me. I’m not a cellist so perhaps I’m not the best judge in this arena. I do dabble with the piano so I can say with conviction that the pianist is borderline lifeless GCSE material. For those of you that YouTube has decreed are “allowed” to watch this, please take a moment to review this performance by Georg Mertens and his bored pianist and let me know if I’m being too harsh.

Interestingly, Google decided that an advert for a Dyson vacuum cleaner was appropriate to add to the video, presumably to drown out the sound of this guy murdering the piece:

Screenshot from terrible rendition of Saint-Saens The Swan

Before making a decision, if you’d like a comparison here’s how it should be played by Illényi Anikó and Cseke Gábor. Stunning, emotive, and a sonic delight, both in performance and recording.

For further comparison, the version from grand master cellist Yo-Yo Ma is equally moving, if nowhere near as well recorded. And the less said about the fact that Yo-Yo is either constipated and/or ejaculating during the piece, the better.

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