Monday 23 March 2020

Review: Saint-Saëns, Organ Symphony

Camille Saint-Saëns, Symphony No. 3

Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Conductor, Mariss Jansons, organist, Iveta Apkalna
BR Klassik. This CD also includes the Poulenc Organ Concerto in G Minor, "a homage to Paris in sound".

French composer of the romantic period, Saint-Saëns was famed as the organist of the Eglise de la Madeleine in Paris and particularly renowned for his skill in improvisation. This enabled him to draw on and incorporate the most diverse influences. At the outset of the 'Organ Symphony' and at its conclusion the traditional organ sound with its rich chord production are to the fore and in the slow movement it can be heard clearly creating a smooth uninterrupted flow of sonority.  But between these musical events, the organ plays its part not as a concertante instrument but as an orchestral addition providing integrated, subtle colourings with Saint-Saens wonderful orchestration.

It is the first and second movements, Adagio/Allegro Moderato then Poco Adagio which draw in the listener, captivates, mesmerises and then plays with them. The final movements break the spell and excite with tempo and dynamic changes, leading to the organ's final huge sonorous conclusion - just to let you know it was there all the time.

Saint-Saëns is so much more than Danse Macabre and Carnival of the Animals, providing us with symphonies, operatic work and concertos for cello, violin and piano - more than 300 works in all. Within this spectrum, there are comparatively few works for organ, which can perhaps be explained by his focus on live extemporisation.