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Track(s) taken from CDA67815

Prelude and Fugue in G major, Op 109 No 2

February 1898; dedicated to Albert Périlhou

Andrew-John Smith (organ)
Recording details: May 2009
La Madeleine, Paris, France
Produced by Michael Hedley
Engineered by Dick Koomans
Release date: August 2011
Total duration: 6 minutes 15 seconds

Cover artwork: Exterior view of La Madeleine, Paris by Philippe Benoist (1813-c1905)
Musée de la Ville de Paris, Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Lauros / Giraudon / Bridgeman Art Library, London


'O lucky Saint-Saëns! Lucky three times over! First, fortunate to have presided over Cavaillé-Coll's magnificent organ in La Madeleine; second, blessed with friends and pupils who revered him and inspired his improvisations; and third, surely grateful now to have in Andrew-John Smith an advocate who understands just how to lift from the printed page and project this remarkably rigorous yet beguiling music. The combination of this artist playing this music in such an authentic setting proves to be unbeatable' (Gramophone)

'Recorded on the Cavaillé-Coll instrument in Paris’s La Madeleine, where Saint-Saëns was organist for two decades, this programme centres on the sort of improvisations that spurred Liszt to describe Saint-Saëns as the finest organist in the world' (The Daily Telegraph)

'The preludes and fugues make a sharply contrasted trio: the first and last, in D minor and C, are grand in scale and conception; the second, in G, is much more compact and relaxed. Smith makes full use of the resources of the Madeleine instrument to colour them all' (The Guardian)
The Trois Préludes et Fugues, Op 109, were completed in February 1898 at Las Palmas and are dedicated respectively to Fauré, Périlhou and Henri Dallier, who since 1879 had been organist of St Eustache and was to succeed Fauré at La Madeleine in 1905. On the receipt of a complimentary copy of the newly published work, Fauré wrote to Saint-Saëns: ‘Upon my return from London I found the superb Préludes et Fugues for organ which I will never be able to play properly, and I had the great joy of seeing my name at the head of one of them. I thank you a thousand times for this pleasant and flattering surprise.’

Saint-Saëns was renowned for his improvised fugues and Op 109 demonstrates well the ‘clean, clear, incisive subject, the surprisingly ingenious countersubject, the exquisitely imaginative and inventive episodes’ of which Huré wrote. Saint-Saëns himself related the anecdote of the bride who shocked him with the request not to play fugues at her wedding as they were too serious, and whilst Op 150 reveals an array of improvisatory possibilities, Op 109 attests also to the variety of his fugues. The first and third of Op 109, in D minor and C major respectively, are certainly cast in the grand style that he advocated for the instrument, though with varying characters. The G major, however, is full of the charm, grace and balance found in so much of his music. Vierne praised the works for their form and colour and asserted that they should be ‘… in the repertoire of any organist truly worthy of the name, as much for their superb style as for their virtuosic demands’.

from notes by Andrew-John Smith © 2011

Les Trois Préludes et Fugues, op. 109, achevés à Las Palmas en février 1898, sont dédiés respectivement à Fauré, Périlhou et Henri Dallier, qui était organiste à Saint-Eustache depuis 1879 et allait succéder à Fauré à la Madeleine en 1905. À la réception d’un exemplaire de la nouvelle œuvre publiée que Saint-Saëns lui avait envoyé en hommage, Fauré lui a répondu: «À mon retour [de Londres], j’ai trouvé de superbes Préludes et Fugues pour orgue que je ne saurai jamais jouer proprement et j’ai eu la grand joie de trouver mon nom en tête de l’un d’eux: je te remercie mille fois pour cette si agréable et flatteuse surprise!»

Saint-Saëns était célèbre pour ses fugues improvisées et l’op. 109 montre bien «le sujet … net, clair, incisif, le contresujet étonnant d’ingéniosité, les divertissements exquis de fantaisie et d’invention, les épisodes très imaginatifs et inventifs», dont parle Jean Huré. Saint-Saëns lui-même a raconté l’anecdote de la fiancée qui l’a consterné en lui demandant de ne pas jouer de fugues à son mariage car elles étaient trop sérieuses; et si l’op. 150 révèle toute une gamme de possibilités d’improvisation, l’op. 109 atteste également de la variété de ses fugues. La première et la troisième de l’op. 109, en ré mineur et ut majeur respectivement, sont certainement coulées dans le style spectaculaire qu’il recommandait pour l’instrument, mais avec des caractères variés. Toutefois, celle en sol majeur regorge du charme, de la grâce et de l’équilibre que l’on retrouve dans une si grande partie de sa musique. Vierne a loué ses œuvres pour leur forme et leur couleur, affirmant qu’elles devraient être «au répertoire de tous les organistes vraiment dignes de ce nom, tant pour leur style superbe que pour leur virtuosité d’exécution».

extrait des notes rédigées par Andrew-John Smith © 2011
Français: Marie-Stella Pâris

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