Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 in C minor (Organ); Phaéton; Danse macabre; Bacchanale from Samson et Dalila

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Saint-Sa‘ns
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 in C minor (Organ); Phaéton; Danse macabre; Bacchanale from Samson et Dalila
PERFORMER: Anthony Newman (organ) Pittsburgh SO/Lorin Maazel
It was something of a novelty for Saint-Saëns to bring the organ and orchestra together to the extent that he did in his Third Symphony. Little could he have imagined in 1886, though, that over a century later they would be brought together from such distances, temporal and geographic, as seems common in modern recordings.


Maazel’s new recording merges an orchestra taped in Pittsburgh in 1993 and an organ recorded in New York three years later, but technology triumphs to give a realistic sound and balance to the whole (the orchestra has been caught unfashionably using a single pair of microphones). The performance itself proves a serious rival to Barenboim’s twenty-year-old, remastered Chicago recording, still very much the ‘market-leader’ (DG Galleria – with the organ piped all the way across the Atlantic from Chartres Cathedral).


Mehta’s recording, made in the Berlin Philharmonie, is not as successful as either of these; the slightly under-characterised organ is, presumably, the hall’s own. The Franck was recorded live and benefits from more electricity in the Berlin PO’s playing – the strings, in particular, are stunning here – but suffers from Mehta’s self-indulgence with tempi and dynamics, as indeed does the Saint-Saëns. Maazel’s couplings are of the same standards as his account of the Symphony. Matthew Rye