One of the most underrated of the great 19th century composers, Camille Saint-Saëns is by no means completely obscure, though most of his output has remained in the dim half-light of semi-neglect. To be sure, his Symphony No. 3 in C minor, "Organ," The Carnival of the Animals, Danse Macabre, the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and the Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor remain quite popular, though this is just a handful of pieces by a prolific genius who left an impressive oeuvre of twelve operas, five symphonies, multiple concertos for piano, violin, and cello, choral works, chamber music, songs, and keyboard pieces that are largely unknown today. Placing The Carnival of the Animals as the centerpiece of this 2019 Hyperion album is a good choice, because it may attract listeners who otherwise would find the youthful Symphony in A major and the Symphony No. 1 in E flat major unfamiliar and easy to pass by. These symphonies require some selling because they amount to juvenilia and reflect a gifted student's adherence to accepted models, in the way that Georges Bizet's teenage Symphony in C major shows a similar derivative quality. Even so, they are quite accessible and enjoyable, and the Utah Symphony, under Thierry Fischer, present them with skill and warmth, which go a long way in making these overlooked symphonies approachable and worth a try.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Symphony No. 1 in E flat major Op. 2|
|Le carnaval des animaux|
|Symphony in A major|