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Hyperion Records

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Interior of La Madeleine, Paris by Philippe Benoist (1813-c1905)
Musée de la Ville de Paris, Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Lauros / Giraudon / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67713
Recording details: September 2004
La Madeleine, Paris, France
Produced by Dick Koomans
Engineered by Dick Koomans
Release date: July 2008
Total duration: 6 minutes 36 seconds

'Saint-Saëns has an originality and charm all his own … Smith's warm and sympathetic rubato is a consistent delight, and his inspired choice to make the recording on an instrument played regularly by Saint-Saëns means that listeners can relish the authentic Gallic tones of the splendid La Madeleine organ' (Gramophone)

'Andrew-John Smith's reappraisal of Saint-Saëns' organ works is a real winner. The Trios Préludes et Fugues, three Fantasies and other works are performed with great sensitivity on the organ of the Madeleine … these pieces illustrate a remarkable synthesis of beauty and structure from France's most outstanding composer of the 19th century' (Choir & Organ)

'The charm and elegance of these preludes, fugues and fantasies … brilliantly played by the hugely talented Smith on the great Cavaillé-Coll instrument that Saint-Saëns knew' (The Observer)

'There are magical moments aplenty here … Smith is in a class of his own when it comes to compelling performances of these pieces. They are by far and away the best recordings of Saint-Saëns' organ music since Daniel Roth's three LP-set in 1982 … deeply compelling in their interpretative ardour and musical insight. What's more, there's even a touch of true flamboyance … any composer of integrity, neglected or otherwise, should be profoundly grateful for such compelling and persuasive advocacy as this' (International Record Review)

'The excellent performances apart, the main selling point of this disc is the opportunity to hear some of Saint-Saëns's organ works played on the very instrument for which they were composed—the magnificent Cavaillé-Col at La Madeleine, Paris … performed with flair and sensitivity by Smith who also contributes the excellent booklet notes' (Classic FM Magazine)

Bénédiction nuptiale, Op 9
1859; dedicated to Madame la Marquise de Mornay

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Bénédiction nuptiale, Op 9 of 1859 was written specifically with the organ of La Madeleine in mind. Its occasional registration markings refer specifically to the instrument for which Cavaillé-Coll provided his first voix céleste. Here it contains both ranks and is housed unusually on the unenclosed positif. Saint-Saëns gives to it the undulating introductory motif that opens the piece and answers this with the enclosed flutes of the récit. This is a rare instance of the composer calling for a specific effect in such a way. This piece clearly enjoyed some degree of popularity as it was performed even after the composer’s death (for instance, on 28 February 1922 at the wedding of HRH Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles at Westminster Abbey). Saint-Saëns himself performed it at the inauguration of La Trinité in March 1869, and again in his programmes of the 1890s. Dedicated to Madam la Marquise de Mornay it was referred to by Vierne as ‘that little masterpiece of written-out improvisation’. Whereas the Revue et Gazette Musicale described it rather miserably as ‘a piece of little effect and few ideas’ it is surely a beautiful example of that complicity of melody and harmony which Saint-Saëns so espoused.

from notes by Andrew-John Smith © 2008

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