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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: 5 minutes 52 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)

Fantaisie in E flat major
May 1857; first first performed a the inauguration of the new organ at St Merry, Paris, on 3 December 1857; dedicated to Georges Schmitt

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Fantaisie in E flat major was Saint-Saëns’ first published organ work. It is certainly his most enduring and is the only organ piece that still appears regularly on concert programmes. It was written in May 1857 as the restoration of the Saint-Merri organ was nearing completion and was first performed at its inauguration on 3 December that year. The manuscript bears a dedication to the composer’s friend Georges Schmitt, organist of Saint-Sulpice. Known primarily as a scholar, this is the same Georges Schmitt that Cavaillé-Coll was so singularly unimpressed with at the inauguration of the Saint-Sulpice instrument! This score makes technical demands quite exceptional for 1850s France and problematic in any age. It is written in two contrasting movements. The first is full of the charm and elegance so typical of its composer whilst the second provides a strong and confident conclusion. The critic Henri Blanchard did not think it particularly ‘fantastic’ but rather ‘serious, elegant and religious, all at the same time’. When A M Henderson visited Paris in 1908 Saint-Saëns insisted that he hear the piece on the organ for which it was written. The composer was probably anxious that Henderson appreciate fully the spatial arrangements of that organ which would have given the first movement a particular charm. That he performed it in his concerts of 1896/7 would attest to his own fondness for the piece and he must surely have played it with some regularity at La Madeleine.

from notes by Andrew-John Smith © 2008

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