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Saint-Saëns: Organ Symphony, Etc / Frémaux, City of Birmingham SO

Release Date: 03/20/2007 
Label:  Emi Classics For Pleasure Catalog #: 82233   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Felix KokAnthony MoroneyBrenda LucasJohn Ogdon,   ... 
Conductor:  Louis FrémauxGeorges Prêtre
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony OrchestraParis Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The longevity of Saint-Saëns allowed him the mixed pleasure and pain of living through at least two earthquake events: the appearance of Schoenberg’s Five Pieces in 1909 and four years later the premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. These pieces were in a language alien to the well established French composer. Like Glazunov, who continued to compose in an idiom firmly locked in the nineteenth century, Saint-Saëns stuck to his last and continued to do what he knew. While some composers can be accused of following the latest baggage caravan Saint-Saëns was having none of that. Going by the enduring popularity of at least ten pieces of his music he knew what he was doing.

Here then is the popular
Read more Saint-Saëns in often excellent versions.

Frémaux was a great asset to EMI during his time with the CBSO and there were plenty of LPs issued though comparatively few have made it to CD or have stayed available for long. He then made a handful for Collins Classics. I was so pleased to see his recording of the Third Symphony. It’s a work of lavish romantic grandeur but also has a playful veneer. For long a favourite of mine this symphony with its echoes of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky are undeniable but its ideas are fresh and vital and the layout of the orchestration is matchless.

When first issued, this disc like the equally wonderful Frémaux/CBSO Massenet Dances from El Cid, came out on the EMI equivalent of Decca’s Phase 4 but with a little less spotlighting of instruments. It may not have the iconic reputation of Munch and the Bostonians with Zamkochian but it is a little less relentless yet just as exciting and is much more naturally recorded. Listen to the excitingly chaffing Allegro moderato as an example of life-enhancing wind writing; epic excitement and delirium. The staccato ‘whump’ of the horns at 2:27 is a total delight – a velvet punch to the left ear. Indeed the whole of that Allegro (tr. 19) has the eager flightiness of a typical Glazunov scherzo – quite a proposition. Frémaux builds the grand – even grandiloquent - peroration majestically. Surely Britten must have learnt a thing or two about such things from Saint-Saëns for his Young Person’s Guide.

There is a stylish Danse Macabre, honeyed, Rimskian, mildly eerie, Hispanic and not that far removed from the even finer Havanaise and Caprice Andalou. Good to hear Felix Kok again – for long a well-kent presence as CBSO leader. Ogdon and Lucas join the CBSO in 1971 to take us through the witty vignettes of The Carnival of the Animals. There is plenty of ear-tickling detail. The Aquarium recalls the music for the radio-telescopes in Herrmann’s The Day The Earth Stood Still. These fourteen pieces are full of fascination with only The Swan seeming just a little perfunctory. The terribly brief Allegro appassionato does not mess around, cutting directly into the ardent and fast-tripping romantic heartland. It belongs with that legion of short concert works by Tchaikovsky, Glazunov and Bridge. Tortelier clearly relishes it. Prêtre may not always have been the model imaginative music director but here he delivers a fine Bacchanale although truth to tell, as a piece of music, it has too much of the Parisian ballet corps; not dissolute enough and too little terror. The Philistines always seem just a touch effete rather than threatening. Some nice Tchaikovskian dance stuff and kasbah exotics along the way.

Lots going for this good inexpensive single disc Saint-Saëns collection. A splendid Third Symphony that will deliver more pleasure for longer than many ‘definitive’ versions.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Danse macabre in G minor, Op. 40 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Felix Kok (Violin)
Conductor:  Louis Frémaux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; France 
Length: 6 Minutes 43 Secs. 
Carnival of the animals by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Anthony Moroney (Flute), Brenda Lucas (Piano), John Ogdon (Piano),
Hilary Robinson (Cello)
Conductor:  Louis Frémaux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1886 
Length: 23 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Symphony no 3 in C minor, Op. 78 "Organ" by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Christopher Robinson (Organ)
Conductor:  Louis Frémaux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1886 
Length: 34 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Samson et Dalila, Op. 47: Bacchanale by Camille Saint-Saëns
Conductor:  Georges Prêtre
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; France 
Allegro appassionato for Cello and Orchestra/Piano in B minor, Op. 43 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Paul Tortelier (Violin)
Conductor:  Louis Frémaux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873; France 
Length: 3 Minutes 49 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Exciting performances from 40 years ago.  May 19, 2012 By Michael Lea (Hendon, london) See All My Reviews "This is the sound of the CBSO in the days of natural acoustics. The orchestra plays freely in the complete range of volume from complete silence upwards." Report Abuse
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