Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Saint-Saens - Les 5 Symphonies - Martinon,ORTF National Orchestra

Saint-Saens - Les 5 Symphonies - Martinon,
ORTF National Orchestra

Symphonic | Eac, flac, cue | log, cover | 2 CD, 679 MB
July 13, 2005 | EMI | RapidShare

Martinon's conducting is superb, balanced, and heart-warming. He believes in this music and inhabits every bar. He is a wonderful conductor.

The word "symphony" comes with a lot of baggage, biases, and expectations. For many, a symphony must follow in the grand tradition of struggle, doubt, and triumph (or doom) that Beethoven instigated, and Mahler propelled into the 20th century. Yet a lighter, though no less important definition of the symphony often gets lost in the process, an elegant, graceful tradition reaching back to Boccherini and Haydn, to say nothing of Mozart. Because of this, the lighter symphonists of the 19th century, great figures like Saint-Saens, Bruch, Glazunov, Kalinnikov, etc., are often dismissed or disparaged. There is very little struggle here, and even less philosophy; they are simply charming works of masterful orchestration and breathtaking melodies. Saint-Saens Five Symphonies are an excellent case in point: each one is vital to understanding the composer's style and development, and each is well-worth getting to know and enjoy over the years.

His first effort, the Symphony in A Major, written as a teenager, is delightful; it is a perfect twin to Bizet's youthful symphony; indeed, you can almost imagine them writing their respective symphonies to complete the same homework assignment. The first movement is wonderful--like one of Mozart's symphony-overtures (No.32, for example). Yet what a leap in maturity we find in the actual Symphony No.1, which is charming, sophisticated, and surprisingly tuneful. If you don't know this piece, and have zero expectations for an unknown Saint-Saens symphony, this piece can bowl you over. It's truly evergreen, and never wears out its welcome.

The following three symphonies, including the very well-known "Organ" symphony are even more mature. Besides the Third Symphony, my favorite is the surprisingly powerful Symphony in F Major, subtitled "Urbs Roma." Saint-Saens withdrew this piece, his true Third Symphony, which is an incredible shame. No symphony without a number will ever really enter orchestral circulation. And what a pity: the first movement surges with Schumanesque power, and the scherzo is phenomenal--what a find! A beautiful slow movement and quicksilver finale rounds out a symphony that I've listened to over and over, and am consistently astonished by. The Second Symphony is his most assured (next to the Third), and is impeccable. Beautiful orchestration, themes, and construction. It's a bit less personal and reserved than the "Urbs Roma" symphony, channeling something of the classical demeanor of his Cello Concerto No.1. The first movement is dark and dramatic (though not in a very brooding way), and is followed by a gentle, almost imperceptible slow movement (again, like the slow movement of the Cello Concerto). A tempestuous scherzo follows, which is enveloped by a romping, cheerful finale with a great tune.

Since it's pointless to gush over the merits of his greatest symphony, I'll stop here. Do get to know these great symphonies of a largely forgotten symphonic master, albeit in the gentler, more lyrical tradition. These works make a great complement to Bruch's Three Symphonies, or Kalinnikov's First and Second, not to mention Bizet's popular work.

A final note: Martinon's conducting is superb, balanced, and heart-warming. He believes in this music and inhabits every bar. He's a wonderful conductor, surprising me here no less than in his great Prokofiev cycle for Vox.

CD Content

# Symphony in A major
# Symphony No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 2
# Symphony No. 2 in A minor, Op. 55
# Symphony in F major ("Urbs Roma")
# Symphony No. 3 in C minor ("Organ"), Op. 78
...with Bernard Gavoty


  1. Many thanks. Been searching for other Saint-Saens symphonies for ages.
    However, parts 1 and 4 of the archive are no longer available. Any chance of a re-upload? cheers

  2. The files are in the u/l queue now. Try tomorrow.

  3. Looking forward to listen to this. However part 4 is missing now. Any chance to re-upload? Thanks



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