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Hyperion Records

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Leaving La Madeleine by Jean Beraud (1849-1935)
Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67922
Recording details: June 2011
La Madeleine, Paris, France
Produced by Daniel Moult
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: July 2012
Total duration: 6 minutes 58 seconds

'The mighty Fantaisie pour orgue-Aeolian, complete with tubular bells, written for the new American Aeolian organ in 1906, sounds epic on this vast, brooding instrument, so splendidly tamed by the dextrous Smith' (The Observer)

'Saint-Saëns described the Fantaisie as 'unplayable by the hands and feet' but Andrew-John Smith proves otherwise … in the more conventional repertoire, Smith capitalises on the colours that the La Madeleine instrument so richly offers' (The Daily Telegraph)

'The variety of colour explored by Smith on this fabulous instrument contributes to the joyous experience of listening to his performance. The use of orchestral tubular bells … is successful and Smith's dextrous virtuosity thrills us though to the conclusion … the enthusiasm with which Smith talks about these pieces in his notes … is amply reflected in his playing, which is in turn commanding, sensitive, robust and lyrical, as the music requires' (International Record Review)

[Dies irae]
?1859; first published in 1991 under the title Thème, Variations et Choral

[Dies irae]  [6'58]

Introduction  EnglishFrançais
Little is known for certain about the untitled Dies irae which appeared in print for the first time only in 1991, when it was assigned the title ‘Thème, Variations et Choral’. The working title given here derives from its use of the Requiem’s Dies irae plainchant. Written on seven staves it survives only in a manuscript at the Bibliothèque nationale and regrettably breaks off fifteen bars into a second movement. Quite what form, or even what instrumentation, the finished work would have taken is unknown. The music that we have is too strong to be ignored, however, and is not unlike the first movement of Cyprès et Lauriers, Op 156, in mood, subject matter and texture. Sabina Teller Ratner has suggested a date of 1859 for the piece, based on its inclusion among manuscripts from this time. If this date is accurate then the work is all the more remarkable for anticipating Liszt’s music of the 1860s onwards. The juxtaposition of styles found here is quintessentially Saint-Saëns, however, from the Mendelssohnian clarity of its first variation and the Romantic turmoil of its central section to the sparse, empty landscape of its bleak conclusion. Surely such a combination is innovative in itself.

from notes by Andrew-John Smith © 2012

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