Camille Saint-Saens was not perhaps his own best advocate for posterity when he once claimed to write music as easily as apples fall from a tree.

A younger generation must have felt goaded by such a provocative statement, especially from a composer whose music, as late as 1920, was content to till the melodic and harmonic fields that had served him so well for 60-odd years.

Yet there is more to Saint-Saens than his Organ Symphony and Dalila's scene-stealing aria. What of the whirling opium trip in his song Tournoiement or the sinuous dance that launches his Second Piano Trio, with a soupcon of samba worthy of Milhaud?

Jamie Walton's new coupling of Saint-Saens' Second Cello Sonata and Chopin's only sonata for the instrument, restores faith in a too often maligned composer.

While Walton and pianist Daniel Grimwood approach both works with an affection and scrupulousness that almost make Chopin's opening Allegro hang together, one senses Saint-Saens is their favourite.

Perhaps there is a hint of curmudgeonly bluster to set off Saint-Saens' Sonata but, in between this, comes the most bewitching and Gallic calm.

The scherzo may steal a glance back at Mendelssohn but the colours are a little darker. Walton and Grimwood dash through the pizzicato and arpeggios of its fourth variation, and dispense the contrapuntal sallies of the sixth with just the right arch of the eyebrow.

The easy counterpoint of Saint-Saens' Finale might have seemed arid four or five decades ago. Now, for a post-minimalist generation, its clear, pristine palette seems almost modern.

The Fine Arts Quartet's new recording of the Saint-Saens String Quartets comes up with more revelations.

The first, in E minor, written when the composer was a mere 64, admits to some deeper emotions in its first pages. The Americans also instil a breath-of-heaven lightness to a Molto Adagio that looks to late Beethoven.

The Second Quartet reveals its 83-year-old composer's sometimes wicked sense of humour, moving from big, bold, building-block harmonies to a remarkably urgent Allegretto, only slightly marred by scuffed intonation.

Chopin & Saint-Saens, Cello Sonatas
(Signum, through Ode Records)

Stars: 5/5

Saint-Saens, String Quartets

Stars: 4/5

Verdict: "Ardent performances demand a reappraisal of an underestimated composer."