Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 2 in A minor; Symphony in F (Urbs Roma); Africa

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COMPOSERS: Saint-Sa‘ns
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 in A minor; Symphony in F (Urbs Roma); Africa
PERFORMER: Laura Mikkola (piano); Tapiola Sinfonietta/Jean-Jacques Kantorow
This beautifully played disc will come as a very pleasant surprise to anyone who knows Saint-Saëns’s orchestral output only from the Organ Symphony and the piano concertos. The early F major Symphony (composed in 1856 when the composer was just 21, and strangely named after the city of Rome) is a sprawling, forty-minute work of great charm; the spirit of Mendelssohn is ever-present, but there is also an extraordinary, repetitive slow movement which lingers unexpectedly in the memory. The so-called ‘Symphony No. 2’ (actually the fourth of Saint-Saëns’s five) dates from just three years later. It is equally appealing but far more concise. The piano and orchestra fantasy Africa is a much later work; it is in the same attractive pseudo-folk vein as the once-popular ‘Egyptian’ Piano Concerto No. 5. Highly recommended. Stephen Maddock