It would seem that there are two basic options for recording the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony, each with pros and cons. The first possibility would be to make the recording in a standard orchestral concert hall, designed with acoustics to maximize the sound of a symphony orchestra. The downside of this solution seems that most concert halls do not possess organs on the scale and grandeur of a cathedral. So why not just record it in the cathedral where there's access to any number of magnificent organs? Then the con becomes unfavorable acoustics for the orchestra; either way, it's problematic. The present recording featuring the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic opts for the latter solution. As such, there are lots of balance problems on the album. The recording level is very low, so to be able to hear the softer portions of this grand work, the volume must really be cranked up. The orchestra does not blend well; the brass stick out far too much from the rest of the ensemble, the tympani are muddy and sluggish, and fast passages in the strings are blurred and imprecise. On the other hand, the organ of the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral sounds magnificent. It's up to listeners to decide which they'd rather hear clearly -- the organ or the orchestra.
AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Symphony No. 3 in C minor ("Organ"), Op. 78|
|Carnival of the Animals, zoological fantasy for 2 pianos & ensemble|