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