If you’re looking for an inexpensive single disc containing Saint-Saëns’ most popular orchestral works, then you can’t miss with this collection. I often wonder if Ormandy had not gone on to remake his core repertoire with RCA, in mostly duller performances and lousy sound, whether his reputation would be as low as it is at present. There’s some absolutely sensational music making on this disc, and to prove it I offer three sound samples for you to consider.
First, this is one of the great “Organ” Symphonies, not perhaps quite as exciting as Munch, but awfully close, with amazingly fine playing from the Philadelphians and astonishingly good sonics for the period (1962). E. Power Biggs is the excellent soloist, offering aRead more rendition of the organ part that’s unusually well articulated rhythmically. Consider the opening of the finale: bold and quite striking in its firmly phrased, grand reprise of the symphony’s motto theme. Ormandy never matched this performance, and he re-recorded this symphony at least twice.
The symphony may be fine, but it’s the couplings that really close the deal. The Marche militaire française has plenty of swagger, and these versions of the Bacchanale from Samson et Dalila and the Danse macabre are simply the best available. Ormandy does a little light restoring of the former, and it matters not a bit–this performance just drips sex and couldn’t be more wildly uninhibited (second sound sample). As for the Danse, just listen to those Philadelphia violins sing out the main theme. It doesn’t get any better than that.
The Carnival of the Animals is no mere make-weight bonus. Heard in its chamber scoring, the performers make an impressive list: Philippe Entremont and Gaby Casadesus on pianos, Régis Pasquier and Yan-Pascal Tortelier on violins, Gérard Caussé on viola, and no less than the young Yo-Yo Ma on cello. Taken together, you have a perfect disc of Saint-Saëns favorites in performances as good or better than any available. And it’s all offered at budget price. Pure gold.
Symphony no 3 in C minor, Op. 78 "Organ"by Camille Saint-Saëns Performer:
E. Power Biggs (Organ)
Written: 1886 Date of Recording: 10/07/1962
Samson et Dalila, Op. 47: Bacchanaleby Camille Saint-Saëns Conductor:
Period: Romantic Written: 1877; France Date of Recording: 03/23/1964
Carnival of the animalsby Camille Saint-Saëns Performer:
Philippe Entremont (Piano),
Gaby Casadesus (Piano)
Written: 1886 Date of Recording: 03/1978
Danse macabre in G minor, Op. 40by Camille Saint-Saëns Conductor:
Period: Romantic Written: 1874; France Date of Recording: 04/12/1959
Marche Militaire Françaiseby Camille Saint-Saëns Conductor:
Period: Romantic Written: 1880; France Date of Recording: 12/28/1966
II. Allegro moderato
Danse Bacchanale from Act III of Samson et Dalila, Op. 47
Marche Militaire Française from Suite Algérienne, Op. 60
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