Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3; Cyprès et Lauriers; Danse macabre (arrangement)

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COMPOSERS: Saint-Saens
WORKS: Symphony No. 3; Cyprès et Lauriers; Danse macabre (arrangement)
PERFORMER: Vincent Warnier (organ); Orchestre National de Lyon/Leonard Slatkin
CATALOGUE NO: CD: 8.573331; Blu-ray: NBD 0045


Large organs are usually defined by the building that houses them, especially the remarkable instruments built by Cavaillé-Coll. However, the magnificent beast heard here began life at the Palais de Trocadero, was transplanted to the Palais de Chaillot and now resides in the Auditorium de Lyon. This disc celebrates its recent restoration. Saint-Saëns’s Organ Symphony is the seemingly obligatory principal work for such occasions, but the composer’s 1919 diptych Cyprès et Lauriers is an imaginative coupling. Vincent Warnier draws vivid colours from the instrument for the pugnacious lament of ‘Cyprès’, and the interplay with the orchestral fanfares in the joyful bombast of ‘Lauriers’ is nicely judged.

The disc opens with Warnier’s revision of Edwin Lemare’s organ arrangement of Danse macabre. It is an impressive feat of virtuosity in terms of registration as much as dexterity of all four limbs. Nonetheless, while some passages fizz with sparkle, others are as fleet-footed as an elephant in flippers. This is at best a fun curiosity.

It’s put into context in the Symphony by the Orchestre National de Lyon’s vivacity and Leonard Slatkin’s deft pacing. It is a pity then that, even in surround sound on the audio only Blu-ray version, the sound periodically lacks clarity. Crucially, the organ falls short of overwhelming in the last movement, though the conclusion is still suitably rousing.


Christopher Dingle