Glorious Organ Symphony


It's fabled among audiophiles, and for good reason. In addition to its classic romantic sweep, Saint-Saëns' knockout Symphony No. 3 in C Minor (1886), aka the "Organ" Symphony, found on Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, "Organ" And Phaéton, is a veritable tour de force for orchestra and organ. As such, it is fitting vehicle from the composer whom Liszt called "the finest organist in Europe."

With one heart-tugging melody leading into another, the beautiful romantic sweep at the start of the Organ Symphony gives little notice of what is to come. True, there is the occasional dynamic swell, beautifully captured by Telarc's engineers. But for the most part, the music is pastoral, and the organ contained.

All that changes as the drama of the second movement overpowers memories of verdant vistas. The storms do seem to subside over seven minutes in, but any sense of complacence falls away when the organ begins to assert its power. And powerful it is. I've got plenty of vibration isolation under my Dynaudio self-powered desktop speakers, but my keyboard and fingers are still buzzing from the incredible force of the organ's low range. The final swell is something else. I can just imagine how Michael Murray's organ sounds on a grand sound system.

The symphonic poem Phaéton, Op. 39 (1873), is a well-packed follow-up. Based on an ancient Greek myth, its galloping horses and blaring trumpets give hints of the lightning and downfall to come. Even as the dead Phaéton lies buried by river nymphs, you and your system will emerge triumphant.