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Thread: Saint-Saens Organ Symphony...Your recommendations...

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    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    Question Saint-Saens Organ Symphony...Your recommendations...

    I don't have his work.
    What recordings would you recommend?
    Thanks
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

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    When I think of this symphony I think about the organ and the acoustics.

    The organ, unlike the piano, is not made in an industrial scale. Each instrument is unique and adapted to the church's ou concert hall's acoustics and size.

    There are three ways to record it:

    1. In a concert hall provided with an organ
    That was the case of two recordings from the early days of stereo, with French conductors and American orchestras, that were much loved by audiophiles back then, especially to test their equipment's bass, and they still stand the test of time:

    Paul Paray with M. Dupré, organ (Detroit, 1957)
    https://www.amazon.com/Saint-Sa%C3%A...vw_txt?ie=UTF8

    C. Munch with B. Zamkochian, organ (Boston Symphony Hall, 1969)
    https://www.amazon.com/Saint-Saëns-S.../dp/B0002TKFGI

    2. Bringing the orchestra to a church
    For this work, I much prefer churches' echoing properties than a concert hall's dry acoustics. I still didn't choose my preferred recording but some good options are:

    Georges Prêtre with M. Duruflé, organ (Church of St. Étienne du Mont, Paris, 1964)
    https://www.amazon.com/Saint-Saens-S.../dp/B00005NPJT

    Jean Martinon with Bernard Gavoty, organ (Church of St. Louis des Invalides, Paris, 1975)
    https://www.amazon.com/Saint-Sa%C3%A.../dp/B00008PW6G

    F-X. Roth with D. Roth, organ (Church of St. Sulpice, Paris, 2010)
    https://www.amazon.com/Saint-Saëns-S.../dp/B003Z420JC


    In these three recordings, the organist was then titular of that church, meaning they knew that organ better than anyone else. And you get three excellent French organs, two of them by the famous Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, same manufacturer from La Madeleine church where Saint-Saëns was titular organist (1857-1877, apparently he left the job when his agenda got filled with composing and touring as a piano virtuoso).

    One reviewer from Amazon nails it:
    In any case, this was recorded in the ultra-reverberant acoustic of Salle Wagram in Paris [wrong: recorded in the church where Duruflé was titular organist from 1929 to 1986], apparently concurrent with the organ and not with it dubbed in later as is often the practice. While the performance itself is grand, sonorously blended, and expansive; one gets the impression that the venue is as much on display as the music. Many orchestral details otherwise evident in modern recordings are consequently lost in the thick voluptuous velouté. However, I often enjoy hearing this symphony performed in a "natural" acoustic and as something other than an in-your-face woofer-busting "sonic spectacular".



    3. Overdubbing the organ to an orchestral recording, like Barenboim (1975), Dutoit (1982) and Jansons (1994) did. While some orchestral detail, such as piano and woodwind parts, may be much clearer in a concert hall, I still prefer church acoustics.

    According to one Amazon reviewer writing about the Jansons CD:
    "It's also quite obvious that the orchestra and organ were recorded in two separate venues with very different acoustics that don't mesh together. They needn't have bothered, because in this symphony, the benchmark for hi-fi goosebumps is still the 1959 Charles Munch on RCA, where the truly earth-shaking organ co-exists peaceably with the orchestra in the same acoustic (Symphony Hall in Boston)."
    Last edited by Chatellerault; Sep-23-2019 at 01:30.

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    Senior Member D Smith's Avatar
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    This is one of my favourite symphonies and I’ve collected many recordings. My favourite remains Daniel Chorzempa/Edo de Waart/Rotterdam for the conducting and orchestral sound. I also love the venerable Ormandy/E Power Biggs recording. Also excellent are Munch, Dutoit, Barenboim, Martinon, Ansermet and de Waart’s later recording with Guillou/San Francisco. I may be forgetting some.

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    My favorite Organ Symphony is the one in the $5.99 Saint-Saens mega-download, which is loaded with really excellent S-S performances. Originally issued on BIS (like most of the recordings in the download), the symphony has Hans Fagius at the organ and James DePriest (RIP) conducting the Stockholm Phil. Great conducting, great engineering, clear and transparent sound, and Fagius is renowned as an organist in that part of the world.

    The symphony aside, this may be all the S-S you need. One of the best in the “99 Essential” series.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Itullian View Post
    I don't have his work.
    What recordings would you recommend?
    Thanks
    I love the Barenboim/Chicago one, complete with overdubbed organ...the sound is unnatural to a degree, but it provides a remarkable "otherworldly" quality....wonderful clarity, with the organ sounding simultaneously from afar, but also right up front...

    Ormandy/Phila is good, Munch/BSO OK...not too impressed with Paray/Detroit, my first real exposure to the work..there is some pretty weak sounding wind/brass work....

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    Senior Member Oldhoosierdude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    My favorite Organ Symphony is the one in the $5.99 Saint-Saens mega-download, which is loaded with really excellent S-S performances. Originally issued on BIS (like most of the recordings in the download), the symphony has Hans Fagius at the organ and James DePriest (RIP) conducting the Stockholm Phil. Great conducting, great engineering, clear and transparent sound, and Fagius is renowned as an organist in that part of the world.

    The symphony aside, this may be all the S-S you need. One of the best in the “99 Essential” series.
    I have that one, although the box was $. 99 when I purchased it. I also have The Big French Music Box with the symphony by "Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Sergiu Comissiona, Frederick & Minger" ( two on the organ?). I quite like this symphony and believe these recordings cover it for me.

    61WlkBsrxRL._SS500_.jpg
    81yMOllMuoL._SS500_.jpg
    I don't live in the past,
    there's no future in it.

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    As others have mentioned, Munch is often many people's choice but there are some other really good options - Barenboim, Ozawa,. Myung-Whun Chung, Levine, Martinon and the account I was playing a few days ago from Soustrot and his Malmo forces, on Naxos. That's a really well-recorded disc.
    Last edited by Merl; Sep-23-2019 at 07:17.

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    Senior Member Kiki's Avatar
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    I like this, Pappano's live recording his the Santa Cecilia orchestra. Warm and operatic.

    Also like the Karajan, which seems to be dismissed by most professional reviewers?

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kiki View Post


    I like this, Pappano's live recording his the Santa Cecilia orchestra. Warm and operatic.

    Also like the Karajan, which seems to be dismissed by most professional reviewers?
    Strangely enough I've never heard Karajan's SS3 but most of the negative press wasn't about Karajan's handling of the symphony (which some like a lot and some think a bit 'germanic' ) . The biggest complaint is usually labelled at the organ sound which many say is too loud and distorted. I can't comment, personally, as I've never heard it. The Pappano is a new one for me. BTW, I missed Ormandy's account off my list as I don't like the muddy sound at all. Shame, as its otherwise a very good performance.
    Last edited by Merl; Sep-23-2019 at 17:42.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Dutoit Montreal / Peter Hurford-organ on London
    Bareboim Chicago on DG
    Ormandy Philadelphia / Michael Murray on Telarc
    Eschenbach Philly / Oliver Latry on Ondine includes the Saint Saens plus Poulenc's excellent concerto for organ, strings and timpani
    “Music makes you feel feelings. Words make you think thoughts. But a song can make you feel a thought.”

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    Senior Member Kiki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    Strangely enough I've never heard Karajan's SS3 but most of the negative press wasn't about Karajan's handling of the symphony (which some like a lot and some think a bit 'germanic' ) . The biggest complaint is usually labelled at the organ sound which many say is too loud and distorted. I can't comment, personally, as I've never heard it. The Pappano is a new one for me. BTW, I missed Ormandy's account off my list as I don't like the muddy sound at all. Shame, as its otherwise a very good performance.
    Certainly Karajan can be very loud, not only the organ, but also the whole orchestra; but the playing in quieter passages, esp. in the strings, are also quite amazing. Certainly worth a listen.

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    Senior Member realdealblues's Avatar
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    Mostly same as others...

    Munch/Boston/Zamkochian
    Paray/Detroit/Dupre
    Ormandy/Philadelphia/Briggs
    Waart/San Francisco/Guillou
    Barenboim/Orchestre de Paris/Litaize
    Mata/Dallas/Guillou

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    Senior Member NLAdriaan's Avatar
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    Dutoit and Hurford on the early digital Decca/London recording deliver a great sound and very elastic performance. This was amongst my very first CD's back in the day and it proved to be a great demonstration of CD capabilities, still to this day. The full, direct organ sound without any distortion remains a gem. I don't mind that the organ sound was dubbed and recorded elsewhere. Digital recordings are always a puzzle of building blocks, even if there is only one musician playing.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    I had never heard of the Paray so I ordered a used CD.
    “Music makes you feel feelings. Words make you think thoughts. But a song can make you feel a thought.”

    - Yip Harburg

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    I also recommend the Munch/Boston/Zamkochian CD. You also get the Poulenc Concerto for Organ, Strings, and Timpani, and Franck's Le Chasseur Maudit. Beautifully recorded.

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