I have spent the afternoon with Charles-Camille Saint Saens (9 October 9, 1835 – December 16, 1921), the French composer whose Romantic period piano music never fails to please.
The Symphony No. 3 in C minor, op. 78 “Organ Symphony” is sweet and riveting, not only because of the great organ sound, but the sweet sound of the strings.
Of the different renditions available to me, all of them very satisfying performances, I keep going back to Charles Munch with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Berj Zamcochian as the Organist. (RCA Living Presence LSC 2341). Recorded in April 1959.
Here is Munch and the BSO a few years later:
I also enjoyed his Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22, played in 1958 by Arthur Rubinstein and the Symphony of the Air, conducted by Alfred Wallenstein (1997 Classic Records reissue RCA LSC 2234).
Rubinstein extracts music from the piano that is so sublime that one is frozen in a sweet spot with hopes that it will not end. Listen to him in this performance:
Seek out Stephen Hough’s complete set of all 5 Saint Saens piano concertos, played with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Sakari Oramo. (Hyperion CDA67331/2). His interpretation of Symphony No. 5 is worth price of the 2 CD set. The Second Movement gets a lot of play in our house.
Listen to Yves Thibaudet with the Concertgebouw Orchestra’s performance of No. 5, then get yourself Stephen Hough’s version. Extraordinary.