Saint-Saëns Trois tableaux symphoniques d’après La foi; Symphony No. 3 (Organ); Samson et Dalila – Bacchanale
Utah Symphony/Thierry Fischer
Hyperion CDA 68201 75:15 mins
Saint-Saëns is a fascinating, in some ways a sad case: he had everything a composer could possibly want except genius.His dates (1835-1921) show him to be a contemporary of everyone from Liszt, who admired him, to Stravinsky, who naturally didn’t. He learned from all his great contemporaries, but never achieved the heights or depths that they did. He is almost the exact opposite of Berlioz, whose genius was often frustrated by lack of technique. This disc, one of a series that Hyperion is issuing, shows his strengths and up to a point his weaknesses. Perhaps Thierry Fischer does too much to try to make him a worthy contemporary of his peers.
The Symphonic tableaux are excerpted from the incidental music for the play La foi, and show him in his happy Egyptian plane, if at slightly gruelling length. His exceptional talents for exotic music are much more in evidence in the Bacchanale from Samson et Dalila, altogether his best work – this is some of the best Orientalist music ever written, and it must be said that Beecham remains unequalled in it; and it is only fair to add that his finest achievement is in the famous love-scene in that opera, with one of the sexiest tunes ever written. The Organ Symphony is his most popular but by no means greatest work, and as with the other things on this disc, is well performed but not one of the classic versions.