British organist Andrew-John Smith once again brings his compelling artistry to the service of Camille Saint-Saëns. Smith’s commanding sense of architecture, breathtaking musicality and astonishing control of dynamics and nuance is thrilling. As with Volume 1, this disc provides a rare opportunity to hear Saint-Saëns’s organ works played on the very instrument for which they were composed—the magnificent Cavaillé-Coll at La Madeleine, Paris.
The art of improvisation was essential for French organists and huge importance was placed on the development of this skill. Saint-Saëns was renowned for his extraordinary organ improvisations and it was said that ‘his genius was of an indescribable splendour’. In committing these extensive improvisations to paper he offers an insight into his instinctive musical logic and dazzling virtuosity. The Preludes and Fugues bear witness to the composer’s improvisatory flare and demonstrate the extent of his vastly imaginative compositional skills.