ALBUM TITLE: Saint-Sa‘ns , Poulenc , Barber
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 (Organ); Organ Concerto; Toccata Festiva
PERFORMER: Olivier Latry (organ); the Philadelphia Orchestra/Christoph Eschenbach
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 1094-5 (SACD)
Three showpieces for organ and orchestra should provide a feast of aural delights. Captured during the inaugural concerts of the Fred J Cooper memorial organ in Philadelphia’s Verizon Hall, the largest concert hall organ in the United States, these performances capture the instrument’s power and range of colour guided by the masterly Olivier Latry. For the most part this is great fun. The Barber, a gritty work that is a little over-reliant on its principal theme, is despatched with élan, the Philadephia Orchestra under Christoph Eschenbach outclassing Gillian Weir’s supporting cast (Linn), but she turns the tables in the Poulenc. Latry extracts a distinctly French sound with his registration, but the upper strings, gorgeous in tone though they may be, are decidedly vague in articulation during the faster sections. Both Weir and Lefebvre (Naxos) are better supported and are preferable if modern sound is essential, but Duruflé, who advised Poulenc on registrations and gave the premiere, is still unsurpassed in his classic account with Prêtre (EMI). Fortunately the Saint-Saëns fares much better, and the exceptional SACD sound comes into its own. There are plenty of recordings where the organ is scarcely noticed before its grand entry at the start of the final movement, but Latry’s colouring of the slow movemen is heard beautifully. Everything is clear, and if the purpose of Munch’s classic account (RCA) is occasionally lacking, or the panache of Frémaux (EMI), Eschenbach delivers a performance that is still exciting and scintillating.