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Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Complete Organ Works and Motets Vol. 3 - 'Un Mariage, un Enterrement, et un Salut au Saint-Sacrement'

Ave, verum [5'27]
Benediction nuptiale op. 9 [5'34]
Deus Abraham [3'32]
Marche Religieuse op. 107 [4í32]
Improvisation VI op. 150, Pro Defunctis [8'05]
Pie Jesu [2'40]
Improvisation VII [4'10]
Quam dilecta [3'41]
Trois preludes et fugues op 99: mi majeur [4'16] [5'40]; si majeur [4'55] [2'16]; mi bemol majeur [3'15] [4'41]
Vincent Genvrin, organ, Sabine Garonne (mezzo-soprano), Francois-Nicolas Geslot (tenor), Daniel Daure (french horn), Dominique Clement (harp), Choir, 'Les Elements'/ Joel Suhubiette
Rec: Notre Dame de Taure, Toulouse, 6-9 May 1999 and La Madeleine, Paris DDD

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The third of Hortusís series encompassing the complete organ works and motets of Saint-Saëns as usual combines very musical playing and interesting instruments. The literature is also a nice mix including excellent performances of the op. 99 Preludes and Fugues. Also included is the motet Deus Abraham, also programmed in the previous disc, but this time in a more richly arranged version for soprano solo, mixed choir, harp and organ. The solo singing, especially that of Sabine Garonne is excellent. The choral singing is good, but not optimal. Interesting on this disc to hear Saint-Saëns' Motets with other obbligato instruments; the horn with the organ and choir in the setting of Ave, Verum, is delicious.

Vincent Genvrin, as usual, is quite up to the task; his energy in the seventh improvisation is spot-on and the preludes and fugues are played with virtuosity and authority. Perhaps if I was to be very picky, the Prelude in B could be slightly quicker and a little more mysterious and the E-flat fugue could be more maestoso as suggested in the composer's tempo marking.

The Prelude and Fugues, together with the Marche Réligieuse and the seventh improvisation are recorded in La Madeleine. This is captured seemingly rather close. Although not a fan of claustrophobic recordings of organs, I suspect here it is necessary. The church has no windows with the curious result that bass frequencies stay in the church much longer than treble frequencies. Allied with the very substantial acoustic, the effect downstairs can very easily become extremely garbled. I sat very recently through a concert there played by a British organist who performed Guilmant's seventh sonata and completely failed to modify his tempi and way of playing to suit the room. The result was utterly incomprehensible for the audience. Happily, this isn't the situation here. The remainder of the pieces are performed on the 1880 Puget organ in the church of Notre Dame de Taure in Toulouse. Another of that city's organs lost in the shadows of St Sernin, (in this case almost physically, as St Sernin is just along the street), it is one of the most beautiful examples of this local builder's work. A three-manual organ, with both Recit and Positif enclosed, it is ideal for the accompanying role it plays here. Again lack of photos and specifications in the booklet do it no favours.

Recommendable, as usual from Hortus.

Chris Bragg

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