this recording caused déjà vu for the bad old days of the
sixties and seventies when old mono recordings were re-processed,
often badly, into stereo. This is very probably a stereo recording
which has been remixed for 5.1 surround. No significant surround
results. There is a weak middle channel and as far as I could
tell no ‘point one’ channel either which is silly for an organ
recording. I got the best results by playing the CD layer
of this hybrid disk and switching the bass to my sub-woofer.
The result was much better organ sound than the so-called
high resolution layer. No marks to Capriccio for that.
got that off my chest, this is a splendid organ with a good
range of colours for this attractive music. Saint-Saëns was
a keyboard musician all his life – he started the piano at
two and a half, no wonder some of the concertos are of such
fiendish difficulty – and became the official organist of
a Parisian church at just 18 years old. Though he did not
remain an organist as such beyond about 1877, aged 42, he
remained devoted to the instrument and wrote works of great
technical challenge, the E flat Prelude and Fugue and
the Fantaisie in D flat major both of 1895 for
example are both virtuoso works. It is worth noting that the
later pieces Op.117 (the set of seven Improvisations),
even strayed into impressionist territory.
Elevation ou Communion is a rather beautiful slow piece.
The prettiness of the Benediction was slightly spoiled
by a very noisy organ blower in the quiet passages. The second
of the two Fantaisies is a much more large-scale piece
in several sections and with a touching quiet close. The last
two tracks are confusingly called Improvisation, the
first is contemplative with some lovely deep pedal work (but
see above) and the second is lively and showy and draws this
enjoyable recital to a conclusion.
notes are simply a biographical summary with an appreciation
of Saint-Saëns and just a few lines on the organ music with
no details and no dates – the dates above are taken from Grove.
Despite my technical reservations Saint-Saëns enthusiasts
should not hesitate to add this attractive disc to their collections
and others might do well to try it out. Saint-Saëns is an
extraordinary figure insofar as most of his output is very
fine, even though most of it is also unplayed. Finding a dud
piece deserving neglect is about as difficult as finding poor
music by Martinů or indeed by Vivaldi. We would do well
to keep our musical blinkers off!