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Saint-saens: Symphonies No 1 & 2 / Soustrot, Malmo

Release Date: 02/10/2015 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 573138   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns
Conductor:  Marc Soustrot
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Malmö Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

All of Saint-Saëns’ symphonies have been thrown into the shadows by the popularity of the last of them, the famous “Organ” Symphony (No. 3). This is a pity, because the others are very enjoyable and rewarding pieces. The First, dating from 1852 when the composer was only seventeen, features a finale whose scoring includes saxhorns, cymbals, and four harps, and it reveals a composer who, despite his classical leanings, wasn’t afraid to challenge convention. The more modestly scored Second Symphony of seven years later continues that trend, sporting a contrapuntal opening movement that’s remarkably assured and formally successful.

The standard reference versions for these works have been Martinon’s EMI (now Warner)
Read more recordings, but Soustrot’s are different enough to justify duplication. In the First Symphony, particularly, Soustrot adopts a very slow, dreamy tempo for the Adagio, but it works very well, particularly in contrast to the bold and brassy finale which follows without a break. Soustrot correctly highlights the adventurous writing for the harps, but never tastelessly, and some listeners may feel that the interpretation finds additional expressive depth in music often denigrated as merely sentimental. It’s good to hear it played with no apologies.

In the Second Symphony Soustrot comes closer to Martinon in terms of timing, but there’s no denying the extra clarity and nimbleness of the Malmö ensemble as compared to the old French National Radio and Television Orchestra for EMI. Soustrot’s exciting and rhythmically sharp reading of Phaéton makes a welcome bonus. This is unquestionably one of the best recordings of the piece, with an especially effective thunderbolt as Zeus hurls the hapless chariot (of the sun) driver from his seat. Attractively natural sonics round out a very promising start to this new series.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 1 in E flat major, Op. 2 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Conductor:  Marc Soustrot
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Malmö Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853; France 
Venue:  Malmö Concert Hall, Malmö, Sweden 
Length: 33 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Symphony no 2 in A minor, Op. 55 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Conductor:  Marc Soustrot
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; France 
Venue:  Malmö Concert Hall, Malmö, Sweden 
Length: 22 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Phaéton, Op. 39 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Conductor:  Marc Soustrot
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873; France 
Venue:  Malmö Concert Hall, Malmö, Sweden 
Length: 9 Minutes 19 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Outstanding February 3, 2018 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "Camille Saint-Saens wrote his first symphony in 1852 at the 'advanced' age of 17. It thus occurs to this reviewer that Mozart was not the only phenomenally precocious composer, and if you have a chance to listen to this work performed by the Malmo Symphony and conductor Marc Soustrot, you'll certainly come to understand what is being claimed here. The symphony is organized with relatively simple themes, but what fabulous orchestration the composer used to sustain the symphony's 33 minute duration! Joyful, exuberant martial content surrounds a gorgeous adagio (3rd movement), with a soaring march-like finale bringing the symphony to a blazing conclusion. In short, this work is an amazing way to break into the world of the symphony. Symphony # 2 from 1859 is clearly a more mature work, as well as being shorter (23 minutes) than Symphony # 1. This music is noticeably more refined, but still has that fresh, sparkling character which pervades Saint-Saens' First Symphony. Sweden's Malmo Symphony Orchestra plays this program with real class, as it demonstrates why it must be considered in the top tier of European orchestras. Hopefully most Arkivmusic patrons find mid-19th century Romantic Era music attractive. Assuming this is the case, then I believe this outstanding Naxos recording cries out for attention. A very excellent disk, which I most definitely recommend." Report Abuse
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