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Saint-Saens: Preludes and Fugues for Organ, etc / Andrew-John Smith


Release Date: 07/08/2008 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67713   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Andrew-John Smith
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

After hearing him improvise at the Church of the Madeleine in Paris, Franz Liszt reportedly proclaimed Camille Saint-Saëns the world's greatest organist. You can debate Saint-Saëns' greatness as an organ composer, yet there's no question that he wrote skillfully and effectively for the instrument. His Op. 99 Préludes and Fugues contain plenty to keep even the most accomplished virtuoso's fingers and feet honest and fluently interactive. The E major Prélude is a good example of the latter, notwithstanding its uninspired companion Fugue. However, the B major Prélude's gentle, toccata-like demeanor barely hints at the vigorous, melodically inventive Fugue that follows.

Instant melodic appeal and
Read more formal simplicity explains the early Bénédiction nuptiale's popularity, although the late-period Marche Religieuse seems to last three times the duration of its four-and-one-half-minute playing time. However, the three Fantasies' imaginative contrasts of mood, register, and harmony warrant serious attention.

Andrew-John Smith's solid technique and sense of style serves these works well, and chances are that the sonorities of the organ of La Madeleine come close to what the composer had in mind. Granted, you might prefer the closer, clearer sonics and incisive articulation distinguishing Hans Fagius' splendid Saint-Saëns collection on BIS, or, on Alba, Jan Lehtola's faster tempos in the Fantasies (compare, for instance, his pliable legato phrasing of the E-flat's opening section to Smith's slightly squarer delivery). I also retain a soft spot for Daniel Roth's lucid, austere interpretations in a complete Saint-Saëns organ music edition once available on vinyl from EMI. But this takes nothing away from Smith's mastery, and the organist's excellent booklet notes provide welcome background and context.

--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Preludes and Fugues (3) for Organ, Op. 99: no 3 in E flat major by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Andrew-John Smith (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894; France 
Length: 10 Minutes 8 Secs. 
2.
Fantasy for Organ in D flat major, Op. 101 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Andrew-John Smith (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1895; France 
Length: 12 Minutes 26 Secs. 
3.
Preludes and Fugues (3) for Organ, Op. 99: no 1 in B major by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Andrew-John Smith (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894; France 
Length: 10 Minutes 48 Secs. 
4.
Cyprès et Lauriers, Op. 156 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Andrew-John Smith (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1919; France 
Length: 9 Minutes 13 Secs. 
5.
Fantasy for Organ no 3, Op. 157 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Andrew-John Smith (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1919; France 
Length: 13 Minutes 30 Secs. 
6.
Marche religieuse for Organ, Op. 107 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Andrew-John Smith (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1897; France 
Length: 4 Minutes 46 Secs. 
7.
Preludes and Fugues (3) for Organ, Op. 99: no 2 in E major by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Andrew-John Smith (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894; France 
Length: 7 Minutes 58 Secs. 
8.
Bénédiction nuptiale for Organ in F major, Op. 9 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Andrew-John Smith (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; France 
Length: 6 Minutes 36 Secs. 
9.
Fantasy for Organ in E flat major by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Andrew-John Smith (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857; France 
Length: 5 Minutes 52 Secs. 

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