Saint-Sa‘ns/Franck

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COMPOSERS: Saint-Sa‘ns/Franck
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 in C minor (Organ); Symphony in D minor
PERFORMER: Daniel Chorzempa (organ) Berlin PO/Zubin Mehta
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-98416-2
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.

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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).

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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