Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3; Poulenc: Organ Concerto; Barber: Toccata Festiva

Olivier Latry

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Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3; Poulenc: Organ Concerto; Barber: Toccata Festiva Review

by Blair Sanderson

Pairing Camille Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3 in C minor, "Organ," and Francis Poulenc's Concerto for organ, strings, and timpani in G minor is common enough in practice, but the growing popularity of Samuel Barber's Toccata Festiva for organ and orchestra, Op. 36, may signal a change from the usual way of programming these works. The arrangement on this splendid release from Ondine seems ideal, starting with the Barber work, which provides a rousing opening, and then continuing on to Poulenc's darkly scored, brooding concerto and Saint-Saëns' brilliantly scored symphony. Christoph Eschenbach led the Philadelphia Orchestra in these exciting performances at Verizon Hall in May 2006 before a live audience, and Olivier Latry, organist of Notre Dame de Paris, played the 100-stop Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ with admirable skill and subtlety. Because this SACD offers impressive 5.0 surround sound and presents the organ and orchestra with sensational timbres and finely shaded dynamics, it's tempting to think that the greatest attention was paid to making this album a showcase for audio buffs; however, the clarity of tone and sensitivity of expression that come from Latry, Eschenbach, and the Philadelphians demonstrate a strong commitment to the music that belies a purely technical approach and it's hard to imagine how these excellent interpretations could ever be surpassed in technique or feeling. Highly recommended.

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