Marc Soustrot / Carl Adam Landström / Malmö Symphony Orchestra

Saint-Saëns: Symphonies, Vol. 2

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The second volume of Naxos' series of the complete symphonies of Camille Saint-Saëns is likely to receive the most attention because it offers the perennially popular Symphony No. 3 in C minor, "Organ." The rest of Saint-Saëns' symphonic output remains inexplicably obscure, and even though his tone poems and concertos are still regularly performed, there have been few conductors to champion these long-neglected works. Jean Martinon recorded them in the 1970s for EMI, but Marc Soustrot's recordings with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra are the most thorough examination of their worth in the digital age. While the "Organ" Symphony needs no introduction, the unnumbered Symphony in A major is a musical foundling that few classical aficionados will have heard of, let alone heard. Saint-Saëns composed it around the age of 15, and he was chiefly inspired by Mozart and Beethoven, so like the Symphony in C major by the teenage Bizet, it is a stylistic throwback. Yet it reveals Saint-Saëns' precocious skill in counterpoint, and his blatant borrowing of the fugue subject from Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony also shows his audacity and cleverness. A great symphony this isn't, but it is a fascinating piece that sheds light on Saint-Saëns' youth, and explains in part why he won support from Berlioz, Gounod, and Liszt early in his career. The album's closer is Le rouet d'Omphale, one of Saint-Saëns' greatest hits and a favorite on pops programs.

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