The Trois Préludes et Fugues
, Op 99 were written in 1894 and are Saint-Saëns’ first significant organ pieces for nearly thirty years. Dedicated to Widor, Guilmant and Gigout respectively they should, in the opinion of Vierne, be in the repertoire of every serious organist, both for their style and virtuosity. They combine characterful preludes with well-worked fugues which Saint-Saëns expressed some hesitation in writing. He was clearly satisfied with the results however as he included them in his 1899 recital in front of the academics at Trinity College, Cambridge. Whilst the preludes of Nos 1 and 2 are both gentle and graceful, the third is a brilliant, if economical, toccata; the fugue which follows it is based on a sweeping and eminently singable subject that builds to a rousing conclusion not out of place in the opera house. The second of the set, arguably the best known, sets off a somewhat jaunty fugue subject against the refined salon music of its prelude. In contrast the fugue subject of the E major derives its material from the elegant lines of the prelude itself and is a beautiful example of Saint-Saëns’ understated style.
from notes by Andrew-John Smith © 2008