On this disc, Jean Guillou teams up with Edo DeWaart and the San Francisco Symphony for a lush performance of Camille Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3, popularly known as the Organ Symphony. This is a lush performance of the Organ Symphony with spot-on tempi, great orchestral balance, and unsurpassed balance between organ and orchestra. This symphony has one long melodic line after another, and DeWaart keeps a long view that prevents any sense of meandering. The organ is stunningly recorded. Brass blaze with glory. Strings are lush. Timpani are extremely well-defined. The clarity of the recording provides an excellent window into finer details. It is difficult to imagine how anything could have been improved upon. The disc is filled out with a strong performance of Widor's Allegro from his Symphony No. 6. This account of the Organ Symphony has everything going for it. There are no obvious weaknesses. If you have excellent subwoofers, they will get the workout of their life. Very Highly Recommended!
Unusually the liner note deserves a mention ahead of the music: the fine pianist Jeremy Denk, half of this regular duo, manages to encapsulate the elusiveness of French romantic music with such insight in a few sharp sentences, his words almost shape the way we listen to this superbly played disc. Saint-Saëns' wistful and emotional Sonata No 1 and Ravel's bluesy, ironic sonata have a whipped, airy quality. Joshua Bell plays with fire and finesse, with Denk a powerful ally. Franck's dark-light violin sonata, mysterious, ardent and far more than the sum of its parts when played as majestically as here, forms the centrepiece of this seriously beguiling disc.
Saint-Saëns's first opera, Le Timbre d'argent initially composed in 1864 need not fear comparison with some of the most celebrated works in the nineteenth-century French repertory. It depicts the nightmare of a man whose hallucinations anticipate by twenty years the fantastical apparitions of Offenbach's Les Contes d Hoffmann.
Saint-Saens’s Etudes offer an intricate and scintillating panoply of the French school of technique (the basis and prophecy of what Jean-Philippe Collard so mischievously called Marguerite Long’s ‘diggy-diggy-dee’ school of piano playing). Yet as Piers Lane tells us in his alternately wry and delightful accompanying essay (obligatory reading for all lovers of French pianism), they can be as evocative (‘Les cloches de las Palmas’) as they are finger-twisting (‘En forme de valse’, to name but one). The left-hand Etudes, too, given their self-imposed limitation, are a fragile and poetic surprise. In other words Saint-Saens’s Etudes are more comprehensive than their equivalents by, say, Moszkowski or Lazare Levey (superbly recorded by Ilana Vered on Connoisseur Society and Danielle Laval on French EMI, respectively – neither issued in the UK).
Samson and Delilah (French: Samson et Dalila), Op. 47, is a grand opera in three acts and four scenes by Camille Saint-Saëns to a French libretto by Ferdinand Lemaire. It was first performed in Weimar at the Grossherzogliches (Grand Ducal) Theater (now the Staatskapelle Weimar) on 2 December 1877 in a German translation…
Ascanio is the student of Benvenuto Cellini, a legendary Florentine sculptor. This latter character's genius and romances came to know a great operatic destiny. The name Ascanio is also the title of a grand lyrical drama by Camille Saint-Saëns which premiered in 1890, and is based on Paul Meurice's play. The opera was abridged several times and reassembled despite the composer's strong objections. It is a wonderful work, far too little-known, in which Italian lyricism, Wagnerian influence and French elegance combine. For the very first time, we will be able to hear the complete premiere performance of the version abiding by the 1888 autograph manuscript. It is brought to us by the impassioned conductor, Guillaume Tourniaire, and a topflight, French-speaking cast. They are accompanied by the Orchestra and Choirs from the Grand Théâtre de Genève and the Haute École de Musique. All this has been meticulously and enthusiastically recorded by B Records.
I bought this inexpensive collection in Paris and I play it frequently. While I enjoy more the rich depth in the Saint Saens piano collaborations of Previn/Collard (EMI) and Dutoit/Roge (London), this five (5) CD value set offers his Violin and Cello Concertos, his Carnival of the Animals, the Introduction and Rondo, and other less well known compositions. One would expect this comprehensive thoroughly enjoyable collection to be available in France where Saint Saens is honored as he is not in America.