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Dynamite audiophile Saint-Saens 3rd ("Organ")


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I bought this on a whim tonight and I'm glad I did.

 

Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 "Organ" | HDtracks - The World's Greatest-Sounding Music Downloads

 

I'm not sure I've experienced a large-scale orchestral recording that's quite so...real. That verb -- "experienced" rather than "heard"--is the one to use here. If you've never played in an orchestra before, fire this account up and you'll know what it sounds like. Clearly, this was miked over the conductor's head because I can hear the rosin in the violin section.

 

Ah, memories.

 

In any event, the performance by the Kansas City Symphony is really quite good. It's not quite in the league of this crew's issue ( Saint-Saens: Symphony No. 3 - Debussy: La Mer - Ibert: Escales | HDtracks - The World's Greatest-Sounding Music Downloads ) but it is enormously satisfying on its own terms, a reminder of the depth and breadth of the talent out there, even in places you might not think to look.

 

I think every audiophile and classical musical lover should download this album. First of all, it's a lovely performance, stunningly well recorded. Secondly, it will expose the strengths and weaknesses of your system perhaps like nothing else. Nothing that I've heard anyway, and I'm now beginning to get to the point where I've heard a lot.

 

Finally, that orchestra and that recording team ought to be applauded for their magnificent effort. This is a contribution to the audiophile community. They deserve our support.

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Personally I found this recording to be a major disappointment. Dull performance and certainly not up to "classic" Keith Johnson SQ. Not sure what all the fuss is about. I much prefer the Eduardo Mata Dallas Symphony version on Dorian. Much more impressive SQ. It could also be that I am just bored with this symphony. YMMV

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The symphony itself is a bore. It's my least favorite war horse. Munch and the BSO give about as good an accounting of it as I've heard. But I haven't heard the Mata performance. Are you familiar with Munch? Do you prefer Mata's?

 

As for SQ, though...really? I felt I had never heard anything quite Iike it. In fact, I'll admit I was listening to the recording more than the performance, if you know what I mean?

 

The Dallas recording SQ is more compelling?

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God almighty, on Amazon someone by the name of "Joseph Kline PhD, MD" offers his take on the Mata recording, then compares it with a dozen other performances.

 

Here's what he has to say:

----------------------------------------

 

In the present disc, the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony is partnered with the Jongen Symphonie Concertante. Organist Jean Guillou, whose recording of the Saint-Saens with Edo de Waart and the SFSO on Philips was superb, teams up this time with Eduardo Mata and the Dallas Symphony in a performance of the Organ Symphony that has its share of both positives and negatives.

 

Mata's tempi for the Organ Symphony are rather conventional, the Dallas Symphony play superbly, and the recording is vivid and has great clarity. The Dallas winds/brass proved themselves historically with Fennell's wonderful recordings and are no less stunning in the present recording. The organ used for the recording is a fine instrument, and Guillou proved 10 years earlier with de Waart that he was up to the challenge of the present performance. These are the positives. Unfortunately, the negatives are equally strong, beginning with the balance between organ and orchestra that shifts from recessed in the coda of the 2nd movement to predominant in the preceeding section. An organist in another review commented on the choice of organ registration being poorly matched to the orchestra. I agree with the reviewer. In the finale of the 4th movment, the brass are excessively highlighted. They play gloriously no doubt, but the spotlight detracts from the music. As for the Jongen, I have no other experience with the work other than this recording, and one hearing is quite enough for these ears. So I will not offer further comment on the work.

 

As I stated earlier, this account of the Organ Symphony has enough negative attributes to preclude a strong recommendation. Recommended only to those who must have most recordings available.

 

Addendum (7-4-15): I am adding this comparative analysis to all of my eight reviews of performances of the Organ Symphony. Please see my individual reviews for greater detail. I have provided conductor/orchestra/organist/label for each review capsule so you can find each recording more easily. The comments are, of course, my educated opinions only, so take them as you will. I have loved this symphony for 40 years and listened to many of the finest recordings. I’ve saved what I think is the best recording for the end, if you just want to cut to the chase. I hope you will find the comparisons helpful.

 

Badea/RPO/Murray/Telarc: This Telarc recording is an account of few new insights interpretively but no crippling errors of omission or commission, either. It is not, however, the most inspired of readings. What we end up with is one of the most exciting sound reproductions that I have heard. The performance is beautiful but less inspiring. Recommended for purposes of hearing what recorded sound SHOULD be.

 

Dutoit/Philharmonia/Hurford/Decca Originals: Dutoit's reading is intense and dynamic, but he takes the fast movements break-neck speed. You can almost smell the smoke rising from the violins by the conclusion of the symphony. Even so, Dutoit's reading is second only to that of Ormandy/Philadelphia/Murray on Telarc. Ormandy's recording is now available as an SACD that is absolutely one of the finest SACD's that I have heard. Recommended, but certainly second to Ormandy.

 

Munch/Boston SO/Zamkochian/RCA: This performance is the consensus favorite for the symphony. It is extraordinary in its depth and richness. It has an intensity heard best in the forte passages, and yet sounds rather relaxed during the softer ones. Performance-wise, I could live with this being my only recording and be exceptionally happy. Unfortunately, the sonics are another story. Softer passages sound dated even on SACD, and loud tutti sections are quite congested. Bottom Line: the Munch/BSO/ Zamkochian performance is second to none but the sonics preclude a slam-dunk for top pick. Highly recommended for the performance.

 

DeWaart/SanFrancisco SO/Guillou/Philips: This is a lush performance of the Organ Symphony with spot-on tempi, great orchestral balance, and unsurpassed balance between organ and orchestra. This symphony has one long melodic line after another, and DeWaart keeps a long view that prevents any sense of meandering. The organ is stunningly recorded. Brass blaze with glory. Strings are lush. Timpani are extremely well-defined. The clarity of the recording provides an excellent window into finer details. It is difficult to imagine how anything could have been improved upon. The disc is filled out with a strong performance of Widor's Allegro from his Symphony No. 6. This account of the Organ Symphony has everything going for it. There are no obvious weaknesses. If you have excellent subwoofers, they will get the workout of their life. Very Highly Recommended!

 

Nezel-Seguin/Montreal Metropolitan Orchestra/Belanger/ATMA: Nezel-Seguin's account of the Organ Symphony is surprisingly competitive in a crowded field. Tempi are reasonable, dynamics are excellent, organ-orchestral balance is very good, instrumental timbres are superb, and the CD provides for a deep soundstage. I am not particularly enamored with Belanger's choice of registration which caused the organ to be less prominent occasionally. My reservations aside, this was a very impressive performance by this relatively unknown group of musicians, but it is outclassed by Murray/Ormandy/Philadelphia. Still, the disc is so enjoyable, I would recommend it highly as an alternative to Murray/Ormandy and for the enjoyable pieces for solo organ.

 

Mata/Dallas SO/Guillou/Dorian: This one has its share of both positives and negatives. On one hand, Mata's tempi are rather conventional, the Dallas Symphony play superbly, and the recording is vivid and has great clarity. Unfortunately, the negatives are equally strong, beginning with the balance between organ and orchestra that shifts inexplicably from recessed in the coda of the 2nd movement to predominant in the preceding section. The choice of organ registration is poorly matched to the orchestra. In the finale of the 4th movement, the brass are excessively highlighted. The brass play gloriously, but the spotlight detracts from the music. This recording has enough negative attributes to preclude a strong recommendation.

 

Levine/Berlin PO/Preston/DG: This disc also includes Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice, and each receives stunning performances. The organ is rarely prominent in this particular recording until the last movement. Pity. Not until the 4th movement do we finally hear confirmation of an organ actually having a place at the table - and a big place it is until the final measures when the organ inexplicably recedes again into the background. The final movement is just glorious. The preceding three SHOULD have been as well. Despite the short-schrifted organ role in the Organ Symphony, this disc is highly recommended for the beautiful orchestral playing, the symphony's 4th movement.

 

Ormandy/Philadelphia SO/Murray/Telarc: No musical work should benefit more from an SACD recording than Saint-Saens Organ Symphony. Ormandy chooses a tempo for the first movement that is on the slow side. The second movement picks up the pace. The Adagio is sublime. I didn't realize the Philadelphia violins could sound that lush. And the organ could not sound more glorious! The sonics of this recording are demonstration class. The balance between organ and orchestra, like in Guillou/DeWaart, is perfect. The finale demonstrates every positive element within this stunning achievement. I don't believe a finer Organ Symphony has ever been recorded. Michael Murray fills out the remainder of the disc with French organ pieces. The organ and recording are both superb. If you love organ music, you won't want to leave the disc after just the Organ Symphony. The performance stands up well to Munch’s fabulous account but beats it hands down on sonics. This is probably the most impressive SACD disc I have heard. It should be in everyone's collection. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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Gramophone reviewed the Kansas recording very well. I listened to the snippets but wasn't blown away. So I stick to my quite recently acquired Nezet-Séguin/Rotterdam, that I really like, similar to Mr Kline on Amazon mentioned above.

 

Here's the link: eClassical - Poulenc: Organ Concerto - Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 "Organ"

 

Well recorded BIS sound.

 

You also get the more rarely recorded Poulenc on top.

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Gramophone reviewed the Kansas recording very well. I listened to the snippets but wasn't blown away. So I stick to my quite recently acquired Nezet-Séguin/Rotterdam, that I really like, similar to Mr Kline on Amazon mentioned above.

 

Here's the link: eClassical - Poulenc: Organ Concerto - Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 "Organ"

 

Well recorded BIS sound.

 

You also get the more rarely recorded Poulenc on top.

 

I haven't heard this recording yet but will look into it, thanks for the link. I do enjoy the Poulenc piece; I have the Linn recording with Gillian Weir on organ. Love the Barber piece. I also have the Telarc/Michael Murray recording. Now if only someone would pair the Poulenc with the Jongen piece... BTW, the Nezet-Seguin is with the LPO, not Rotterdam.

51CfAVzRhQL._SS400_.jpg

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Or you could just listen to a nice modern hi-res recording of the Copland Organ Symphony, Tilson Thomas and the SFO. :)

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God almighty, on Amazon someone by the name of "Joseph Kline PhD, MD" offers his take on the Mata recording, then compares it with a dozen other performances.

 

Here's what he has to say:

----------------------------------------

 

In the present disc, the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony is partnered with the Jongen Symphonie Concertante. Organist Jean Guillou, whose recording of the Saint-Saens with Edo de Waart and the SFSO on Philips was superb, teams up this time with Eduardo Mata and the Dallas Symphony in a performance of the Organ Symphony that has its share of both positives and negatives.

 

Mata's tempi for the Organ Symphony are rather conventional, the Dallas Symphony play superbly, and the recording is vivid and has great clarity. The Dallas winds/brass proved themselves historically with Fennell's wonderful recordings and are no less stunning in the present recording. The organ used for the recording is a fine instrument, and Guillou proved 10 years earlier with de Waart that he was up to the challenge of the present performance. These are the positives. Unfortunately, the negatives are equally strong, beginning with the balance between organ and orchestra that shifts from recessed in the coda of the 2nd movement to predominant in the preceeding section. An organist in another review commented on the choice of organ registration being poorly matched to the orchestra. I agree with the reviewer. In the finale of the 4th movment, the brass are excessively highlighted. They play gloriously no doubt, but the spotlight detracts from the music. As for the Jongen, I have no other experience with the work other than this recording, and one hearing is quite enough for these ears. So I will not offer further comment on the work.

 

As I stated earlier, this account of the Organ Symphony has enough negative attributes to preclude a strong recommendation. Recommended only to those who must have most recordings available.

 

Addendum (7-4-15): I am adding this comparative analysis to all of my eight reviews of performances of the Organ Symphony. Please see my individual reviews for greater detail. I have provided conductor/orchestra/organist/label for each review capsule so you can find each recording more easily. The comments are, of course, my educated opinions only, so take them as you will. I have loved this symphony for 40 years and listened to many of the finest recordings. I’ve saved what I think is the best recording for the end, if you just want to cut to the chase. I hope you will find the comparisons helpful.

 

Badea/RPO/Murray/Telarc: This Telarc recording is an account of few new insights interpretively but no crippling errors of omission or commission, either. It is not, however, the most inspired of readings. What we end up with is one of the most exciting sound reproductions that I have heard. The performance is beautiful but less inspiring. Recommended for purposes of hearing what recorded sound SHOULD be.

 

Dutoit/Philharmonia/Hurford/Decca Originals: Dutoit's reading is intense and dynamic, but he takes the fast movements break-neck speed. You can almost smell the smoke rising from the violins by the conclusion of the symphony. Even so, Dutoit's reading is second only to that of Ormandy/Philadelphia/Murray on Telarc. Ormandy's recording is now available as an SACD that is absolutely one of the finest SACD's that I have heard. Recommended, but certainly second to Ormandy.

 

Munch/Boston SO/Zamkochian/RCA: This performance is the consensus favorite for the symphony. It is extraordinary in its depth and richness. It has an intensity heard best in the forte passages, and yet sounds rather relaxed during the softer ones. Performance-wise, I could live with this being my only recording and be exceptionally happy. Unfortunately, the sonics are another story. Softer passages sound dated even on SACD, and loud tutti sections are quite congested. Bottom Line: the Munch/BSO/ Zamkochian performance is second to none but the sonics preclude a slam-dunk for top pick. Highly recommended for the performance.

 

DeWaart/SanFrancisco SO/Guillou/Philips: This is a lush performance of the Organ Symphony with spot-on tempi, great orchestral balance, and unsurpassed balance between organ and orchestra. This symphony has one long melodic line after another, and DeWaart keeps a long view that prevents any sense of meandering. The organ is stunningly recorded. Brass blaze with glory. Strings are lush. Timpani are extremely well-defined. The clarity of the recording provides an excellent window into finer details. It is difficult to imagine how anything could have been improved upon. The disc is filled out with a strong performance of Widor's Allegro from his Symphony No. 6. This account of the Organ Symphony has everything going for it. There are no obvious weaknesses. If you have excellent subwoofers, they will get the workout of their life. Very Highly Recommended!

 

Nezel-Seguin/Montreal Metropolitan Orchestra/Belanger/ATMA: Nezel-Seguin's account of the Organ Symphony is surprisingly competitive in a crowded field. Tempi are reasonable, dynamics are excellent, organ-orchestral balance is very good, instrumental timbres are superb, and the CD provides for a deep soundstage. I am not particularly enamored with Belanger's choice of registration which caused the organ to be less prominent occasionally. My reservations aside, this was a very impressive performance by this relatively unknown group of musicians, but it is outclassed by Murray/Ormandy/Philadelphia. Still, the disc is so enjoyable, I would recommend it highly as an alternative to Murray/Ormandy and for the enjoyable pieces for solo organ.

 

Mata/Dallas SO/Guillou/Dorian: This one has its share of both positives and negatives. On one hand, Mata's tempi are rather conventional, the Dallas Symphony play superbly, and the recording is vivid and has great clarity. Unfortunately, the negatives are equally strong, beginning with the balance between organ and orchestra that shifts inexplicably from recessed in the coda of the 2nd movement to predominant in the preceding section. The choice of organ registration is poorly matched to the orchestra. In the finale of the 4th movement, the brass are excessively highlighted. The brass play gloriously, but the spotlight detracts from the music. This recording has enough negative attributes to preclude a strong recommendation.

 

Levine/Berlin PO/Preston/DG: This disc also includes Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice, and each receives stunning performances. The organ is rarely prominent in this particular recording until the last movement. Pity. Not until the 4th movement do we finally hear confirmation of an organ actually having a place at the table - and a big place it is until the final measures when the organ inexplicably recedes again into the background. The final movement is just glorious. The preceding three SHOULD have been as well. Despite the short-schrifted organ role in the Organ Symphony, this disc is highly recommended for the beautiful orchestral playing, the symphony's 4th movement.

 

Ormandy/Philadelphia SO/Murray/Telarc: No musical work should benefit more from an SACD recording than Saint-Saens Organ Symphony. Ormandy chooses a tempo for the first movement that is on the slow side. The second movement picks up the pace. The Adagio is sublime. I didn't realize the Philadelphia violins could sound that lush. And the organ could not sound more glorious! The sonics of this recording are demonstration class. The balance between organ and orchestra, like in Guillou/DeWaart, is perfect. The finale demonstrates every positive element within this stunning achievement. I don't believe a finer Organ Symphony has ever been recorded. Michael Murray fills out the remainder of the disc with French organ pieces. The organ and recording are both superb. If you love organ music, you won't want to leave the disc after just the Organ Symphony. The performance stands up well to Munch’s fabulous account but beats it hands down on sonics. This is probably the most impressive SACD disc I have heard. It should be in everyone's collection. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

 

I fully agree on the Levine and Ormandy recordings. although Jean Guillou's outing was lacking, we had the pleasure of seeing him on concert, in Paris, a few years ago.

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BTW, the Nezet-Seguin is with the LPO, not Rotterdam.

[ATTACH=CONFIG]28039[/ATTACH]

 

You're correct, I was confusing from memory with the other recent BIS Nezet album I bought, the very nice Daphnis and Chloé.

 

That's one of the problems with these young conductor superstars, they play with too many orchestras at once. I wonder if he's going to settle down once he's at the Met.

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You're correct, I was confusing from memory with the other recent BIS Nezet album I bought, the very nice Daphnis and Chloé.

 

That's one of the problems with these young conductor superstars, they play with too many orchestras at once. I wonder if he's going to settle down once he's at the Met.

 

Recent?? LOL! I just listened to this recording last week and was shocked to see that we downloaded it in March 2015. How did so much time go by? I must be getting old, time seems to be accelerating. Great recording!

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Recent?? LOL! I just listened to this recording last week and was shocked to see that we downloaded it in March 2015. How did so much time go by? I must be getting old, time seems to be accelerating. Great recording!

 

Ok, recent as opposed to Charles Munch....

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