Marc Soustrot / Malmö Symphony Orchestra

Saint-Saëns: Symphonies, Vol. 1

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With this 2015 Naxos release, Marc Soustrot and the Malmö Symphony Orchestra embark on a cycle of some of the most inexplicably neglected symphonies by a great composer, the five symphonies of Camille Saint-Saëns. Several of his concertos and tone poems have long been mainstays of the repertoire, and most relevant to this case, his Symphony No. 3 in C minor, "Organ" (1886), remains one of his greatest hits. However, the symphonies on either side of that classic are unknown to most classical listeners. The best-known cycle was recorded by Jean Martinon in the 1970s and issued by EMI, and there have been periodic recordings of individual symphonies by other conductors, but this body of work is under-performed and under-recorded. Soustrot and his Swedish orchestra give their project a promising start by offering lively renditions of Saint-Saëns' youthful efforts, the Symphony No. 1 in E flat major (1852) and the Symphony No. 2 in A minor (1859), and a clear image of the young Saint-Saëns emerges, supporting the contemporary description of him as "the French Mendelssohn." With that, one might also compare these pieces to the Symphony in C by Bizet, another symphony by a teenage genius. It's unlikely that this disc will reach a wide audience, but its availability is important for anyone trying to understand the works that won Saint-Saëns support from Berlioz, Gounod, and Liszt.

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