Symphony No. 3 in C minor ("Organ"), Op. 78
Symphony in A major
- Le Rouet d'Omphale, symphonic poem in A major, Op. 31 (08:10)
The second volume of Naxos' series of the complete symphonies of Camille Saint-Saëns is likely to receive the most attention because it offers the perennially popular "Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Organ." The rest of Saint-Saëns' symphonic output remains inexplicably obscure, and even though his tone poems and concertos are still regularly performed, there have been few conductors to champion these long-neglected works. Jean Martinon recorded them in the 1970s for EMI, but Marc Soustrot's recordings with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra are the most thorough examination of their worth in the digital age. While the "Organ Symphony" needs no introduction, the unnumbered "Symphony in A major" is a musical foundling that few classical aficionados will have heard of, let alone heard. Saint-Saëns composed it around the age of 15, and he was chiefly inspired by Mozart and Beethoven, so like the "Symphony in C major" by the teenage Bizet, it is a stylistic throwback. Yet it reveals Saint-Saëns' precocious skill in counterpoint, and his blatant borrowing of the fugue subject from Mozart's "Jupiter Symphony" also shows his audacity and cleverness. A great symphony this isn't, but it is a fascinating piece that sheds light on Saint-Saëns' youth, and explains in part why he won support from Berlioz, Gounod, and Liszt early in his career. The album's closer is "Le rouet d'Omphale," one of Saint-Saëns' greatest hits and a favorite on pops programs.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Some 36 years separate the Symphony in A Major and the so-called Organ Symphony or Symphony No. 3, Saint-Saens undisputed masterpiece. The Symphony in A Major is cast in the standard 4 movement format and scored accordingly. Considering the fact that it was composed by a teenager is remarkable in its own right. The level of maturity and craftsmanship exhibited in its writing make it all the more extraordinary. The sundry influences are readily apparent. On balance this is a very attractive composition. Maestro Soustrot and the Malmo S.O. turn in a stylish performance. It’s a viable alternative to the classic Martinon/l’O.R.T.F. version which is unexcelled in terms of lightness of touch and transparency of texture. The Symphony No. 3 is up against formidable competition. The first movement is quite good: impassioned, pliant and muscular. The Larghetto is somewhat compromised by a slower than usual tempo, depriving the music of its full measure of elegance and songful simplicity. Following an energetic Scherzo with strangely reticent tympani, percussion and piano, Maestro Soustrot and the orchestra really let it rip. No fussing or lingering here. You can clearly hear the conductor exhorting his colleagues onward, much like Errol Flynn in “Charge of the Light Brigade” but with more positive results. The well judged accelerando in the coda culminates in an exciting finale. Throughout, the virtual pipe organ software, Hauptwerk, activated by a Hoffrichter console is a credible facsimile. Not the last word in “Organ Symphonies”, but a good one which more often than not rises to the challenges posed by this great work. Le rouet d’Omphale, a Beecham specialty, receives a nicely articulated reading, convincingly paced and shaped. Sound and production are excellent. Superb liner notes by Keith Anderson.