SAINT-SAËNS: Symphony No. 3 in C minor “Organ Symphony;” GUILMANT: Marche; VIERNE: Carillon de Westminster; WIDOR: Allegro vivace from Symphony No. 6 – Philippe Bélanger, organ/ Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montreal/Yannick Nezet-Seguin

by | Aug 28, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

SAINT-SAËNS: Symphony No. 3 in C minor “Organ Symphony;” GUILMANT: Marche on Handel’s “Lift Up Your Heads;” VIERNE: Carillon de Westminster; WIDOR: Allegro vivace from Symphony No. 6 for Organ – Philippe Bélanger, organ/ Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal/ Yannick Nézet-Séguin – ATMA Classique Multichannel SACD2 2331 ****:
Busoni liked to rephrase Nietzsche in saying his preference was for music “that did not sweat.”  Well, The Organ Symphony sweats a lot, but for all its clunkiness it’s still great fun in a reasonable performance, and this is one. Saint-Saens was trying to emulate the Liszt of the tone poems and the Dante and Faust symphonies. This version is not as grand sounding as the classic one (on a Living Stereo SACD in three channels) with Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony, but it is more transparent and silky sonically vs. the rather harsh-sounding Living Stereo disc.  Also, with the addition of surround channels, it gives a much greater sense of the hall, especially when the pipe organ cuts loose in the final movement. The deepest bass end is more extended on the Atma release. But there is more of the piano part – just as extensive as the organ’s – on the Living Stereo discing.

The three organ solo fillers are some of the big hits of the French organ school and often heard as encores. The 5.1 surround does a fine job capturing the reverberation in the basilica of St.-Joseph du Mont-Royal in Québec.  Organist Bélanger, though now just a shade over 30, began his career as organist of his local church in Québec at age 9.

– John Sunier

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