SAINT-SAENS: Overture to La Princesse Jaune; Requiem; “Organ Symphony” – Tinuke Olafimihan, sop./Catherine Wyn-Rogers, contralto/ Anthony Roden, tenor/ Simon Kirkbride, bass/ Choruses/Michael Kibblewhite/London Philharmonic/Geoffrey Simon – Cala

by | Sep 4, 2007 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

SAINT-SAENS: Overture to La Princesse Jaune; Requiem; Symphony No. 3 in C minor “Organ Symphony” – Tinuke Olafimihan, sop./Catherine Wyn-Rogers, contralto/ Anthony Roden, tenor/ Simon Kirkbride, bass/ Hertfordshire, Harlow & East London Choruses/Michael Kibblewhite, dir./ James O’Donnell, organ/ London Philharmonic Orchestra/Geoffrey Simon – Cala Multichannel SACD CACDS4032, 78:29 ****:

Another gem from Cala Records, matching up an exciting performance of the warhorse St.-Saens Organ Symphony with two rarely-heard works by the composer, plus filling the disc with close to the absolute maximum running time, and all in excellent, involving multichannel hi-res surround.  The recordings were actually made in 1993; don’t know why the long gestation period, but here they are.  The composer wrote such a vast amount of music during during his long life that some of his very enjoyable pieces are almost never heard, being hidden by the popularity of his hits such as the Organ Symphony.

The overture was created for a small operetta which was a whimsical oriental fantasy.  Some have pointed to the hints of both Sir Arthur Sullivan and Offenbach in the music.  The Requiem, which St.-Saens composed in only eight days, stays rather strictly within the liturgical and conservative style of the composer, without any of the wild and sometimes operatic excesses of Berlioz or Verdi.  The Tuba Mirum section, with four trombones and pipe organ, does however remind one of some of the more flamboyant French requiems. I didn’t do any comparisons of the Organ Symphony with some of the many competing versions, but found this effort not lacking in any way, and with the organ sounding more a part of the orchestral venue than those Organ Symphony recordings in which the organ part had to be pasted in from another source since the orchestra’s hall lacked a good pipe organ.

 – John Sunier

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