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OF THE MONTH
Ritchie Symphony 4
OF THE MONTH
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Danse Macabre op. 40 (1874) [6:43]
The Carnival of the Animals (1886) [23:11]
Allegro Appassionato for cello and orchestra op. 43
Symphony No. 3 in C minor op. 78 (1886) [34:12]
Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah (1877) [6:44]
Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Louis Frémaux
Christopher Robinson (organ)
Paris Opéra Orchestra/Georges Prêtre*
rec. 1963 (Bacchanale), 1973-4.
CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE
longevity of Saint-Saëns allowed him the mixed pleasure and
pain of living through at least two earthquake events: the
appearance of Schoenberg’s Five Pieces in 1909 and
four years later the premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite
of Spring. These pieces were in a language alien to the
well established French composer. Like Glazunov, who continued
to compose in an idiom firmly locked in the nineteenth century,
Saint-Saëns stuck to his last and continued to do what he
knew. While some composers can be accused of following the
latest baggage caravan Saint-Saëns was having none of that.
Going by the enduring popularity of at least ten pieces of
his music he knew what he was doing.
then is the popular Saint-Saëns in often excellent versions.
was a great asset to EMI during his time with the CBSO and
there were plenty of LPs issued though comparatively few
have made it to CD or have stayed available for long. He
then made a handful for Collins Classics. I was so pleased
to see his recording of the Third Symphony. It’s a work of
lavish romantic grandeur but also has a playful veneer. For
long a favourite of mine this symphony with its echoes of
Beethoven and Tchaikovsky are undeniable but its ideas are
fresh and vital and the layout of the orchestration is matchless.
first issued, this disc like the equally wonderful Frémaux/CBSO
Massenet Dances from El Cid, came out on the EMI equivalent
of Decca’s Phase 4 but with a little less spotlighting of
instruments. It may not have the iconic reputation of Munch
and the Bostonians with Zamkochian but it is a little less
relentless yet just as exciting and is much more naturally
recorded. Listen to the excitingly chaffing Allegro moderato as
an example of life-enhancing wind writing; epic excitement
and delirium. The staccato ‘whump’ of the horns at 2:27 is
a total delight – a velvet punch to the left ear. Indeed
the whole of that Allegro (tr. 19) has the eager flightiness
of a typical Glazunov scherzo – quite a proposition. Frémaux
builds the grand – even grandiloquent - peroration majestically.
Surely Britten must have learnt a thing or two about such
things from Saint-Saëns for his Young Person’s Guide.
is a stylish Danse Macabre, honeyed, Rimskian, mildly
eerie, Hispanic and not that far removed from the even finer Havanaise and Caprice
Andalou. Good to hear Felix Kok again – for long a well-kent
presence as CBSO leader. Ogdon and Lucas join the CBSO in
1971 to take us through the witty vignettes of The Carnival
of the Animals. There is plenty of ear-tickling detail.
The Aquarium recalls the music for the radio-telescopes
in Herrmann’s The Day The Earth Stood Still. These
fourteen pieces are full of fascination with only The
Swan seeming just a little perfunctory. The terribly
brief Allegro appassionato does not mess around, cutting
directly into the ardent and fast-tripping romantic heartland.
It belongs with that legion of short concert works by Tchaikovsky,
Glazunov and Bridge. Tortelier clearly relishes it. Prêtre
may not always have been the model imaginative music director
but here he delivers a fine Bacchanale although truth
to tell, as a piece of music, it has too much of the Parisian
ballet corps; not dissolute enough and too little terror.
The Philistines always seem just a touch effete rather than
threatening. Some nice Tchaikovskian dance stuff and kasbah
exotics along the way.
going for this good inexpensive single disc Saint-Saëns collection.
A splendid Third Symphony that will deliver more pleasure
for longer than many ‘definitive’ versions.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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