May 12, 2015
Continuing in their series of orchestral works ( volume 1 is available #8573139) we are given his greatest work Symphony No. 3 ‘Organ’ (1886), dedicated to the great Franz Liszt, his first Symphony in A major (1850) when he was only 15, and finally a moody mysterious tone poem Le rouet d’Omphale (1871) whose second melody in the tone poem was used in the popular radio show “The Shadow” of the 40’s.
Born in 1835 in Paris he was giving public concerts by the age of 10 and entered the Conservatoire at the age of 13 studying organ and composition. As stated above he wrote his first symphony at 15 and published it a German anonymous composer feeling that audiences couldn’t accept a work from someone so young. The work is presented here on this CD and while it is far from a masterpiece it shows quite a level of talent as he used Mozart as a model in particular the ‘Jupiter’ symphony. If someone had said to me that this was a Mozart symphony I wouldn’t have argued.
After the disasters of the Franco-Prussian war Saint-Saens began to write a number of tone poems like his idol Franz Liszt did. The first of these was “Le rouet d’Omphale” dedicated to the composer Augusta Holmes. The storyline involves Hercules who was condemned to serve her in the guise of a woman. Both the spinning wheel of Omphale and the groans of Hercules are depicted in the rather short (8+ minutes). This could be an addition to one of your playlists.
The final work on the CD is arguably his finest work his Symphony No. 3 (1886) where he incorporated the use of an organ in the work ( a first I believe). It was dedicated to the memory of Franz Liszt who died shortly after the premiere and was performed in London. It is rich in religious overtones as well as traditional ideas from both Liszt and Mendelssohn. If you have a nice sound system the organ opening in the fourth movement will be an ear opening experience, one you won’t forget. I’m not a believer in lists but if I was this work would receive many votes.
These days with the new digital technology it is hard to fault any CD for quality and this one is no exception. Yes I have heard better organs and recordings of the 3rd symphony but this coupling is well worth the investment.
This is the second CD in an ongoing series of the orchestral works of Saint-Saens so look forward to one or more in the future. A nice inexpensive way to enjoy Saint-Saens.
SYMPHONY NO. 3 IN C MINOR, OP 78 ‘ORGAN’ (1886) (36:50)
1. Adagio-Allegro Moderato (10:53)
2. Poco adagio (10:24)
3. Allegro moderato-Presto (7:45)
4. Maestro-Allegro (7:48)
SYMPHONY IN A MAJOR (1850) (26:30)
5. Poco adagio-Allegro vivace (7:55)
6. Larghetto (9:56)
7. Scherzo: Allegro vivace (3:01)
8. Allegro molto-Presto (5:38)
9. LE ROUET D’OMPHALE, OP. 31 (1871) (8:19)