Symphony No. 3 ('Organ Symphony') (Saint-Saëns 1886) [4:11]

Camille Saint-Saëns seems to have been able to do nearly anything he put his impressive mind towards. Acoustics, occult sciences, Roman theatre decoration, old and ancient musical instruments, geology, archaeology, botany, lepidoptery, philosophy, poetry, playwright, optics and astronomy were a few of the things he liked the most. Oh. He was also a composer. Most schoolchildren learn about The Carnival of the Animals and Danse Macabre as part of their formative education. Personally, I'd also throw in his Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78 for no reason other than it's bristling with more magnificence than most other composers manage in their lifetimes.

It's often referred to as The Organ Symphony, but Saint-Saëns was at frequent pains to point out that it was not a symphony for the organ, but a symphony for an orchestra with an organ. The fact that the most superlative of all instruments completely blows the rest of the orchestra away is neither here nor there. Part of the reason it manages to achieve this so easily is because of the return to the theme on the tag end of the last movement, played here. If you are in a big enough concert hall with a big enough 32 foot pedal stop, the last sections demand notes that are almost inaudible as they are pitched so low, but which truly shake the edifice within which you are seated. To say the least, it's an impressive experience.

The composer knew this was his last shout, famously stating 'I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again', and indeed the whole of it is almost a recap of his musical history. Some of the transfigurations through the entire symphony seem reminiscent of the ideas of Liszt, which is perhaps why Saint-Saëns dedicated it to his friend after his death in 1896.

The St John's Wood organ is played twice through on the same sections, with one being raised and the other lowered via a divider, giving you the sound of three organs at once. Probably enough for anyone. Except that I did the same with the Wilden. Probably more than enough for anyone.

Instrumentation: Mellotron M400 Playing

also piano, orchestral percussion

FLAC version here.