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SAINT-SAENS: Organ Music

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Camille Saint-Sa?½ns (1835-1921)

Organ Music

For some 75 years, from childhood until the last year ofhis life, Camille Saint-Sa?½ns enjoyed internationalrenown as a piano and organ virtuoso. He was alsofamous as a prolific composer. As an organ virtuoso,Saint-Sa?½ns toured extensively in Europe throughout hiscareer, including, in 1906 and 1915, appearances in theUnited States. He also held the prestigious position oforganist at the Madeleine in Paris for nearly twenty years.

While a relatively small number of his compositions havekept their place in the concert hall and the recordingcatalogue, the greater part of his output remains relativelyunknown. This undeserved neglect extends to his 22published organ works, consisting of pieces for soloorgan, organ and orchestra, transcriptions and chambermusic. Throughout his long life the organ remained notonly a central aspect of his musical personality, but of hisactivity as a composer, and some of his first and lastworks were for the instrument.

Saint-Sa?½ns was born in Paris on 9th October 1835.

His father, a clerk in the Ministry of the Interior, died ofconsumption three months after his birth leaving him tobe reared by his mother and his great-aunt, CharlotteMasson. His musical aunt introduced him to the pianoand began giving him his early musical training when hewas two and a half, and a year later he wrote his firstpiano piece. In 1846, at the age of ten, he made his formaldebut as a pianist at the Salle Pleyel, playing a Mozartand a Beethoven concerto. In the winter of 1847 hereceived his first lessons on the organ from Alexandre-Pierre Bo?½ly (1785-1858), organist of Saint-Germainl'Auxerroisand remembered as the 'French Bach'. InOctober 1848 he entered the Paris Conservatoire,enrolling in the organ class of Fran?ºois Benoist (1794-1878), whose pupils included Gounod, Franck, Bizet andAlkan. In 1851, after only three years of study, Saint-Sa?½ns won a Premier Prix in organ. His professionalcareer as an organist began in 1853 when he wasappointed to the church of Saint Severin in Paris. A fewmonths later he accepted a similar appointed at theChurch of Saint-Merry, where, on 3rd December 1857, atthe dedication of the newly rebuilt organ, he gave the firstperformance of his first published organ work, theFantasie in E flat. Four days later, on 7th December,Saint-Sa?½ns was appointed to the Madeleine, where hewas to remain until 1877.

During his years at the Madeleine Saint-Sa?½ns wasactive as an organ recitalist and became well-known forhis improvisations on the church's magnificent Cavaille-Coll organ. He was to become one of Cavaille-Coll'sfavourite organists, and participated in the dedication ofmany of the organ-builder's largest and most famousinstruments, including Saint Sulpice, Notre-Dame, LaTrinite and the Trocadero. In September 1878 he gave thefirst performance of his friend Liszt's Fantasy and Fugueon 'Ad nos ad salutarem undam' at the dedication of theTrocadero organ..

The last half of his life was replete with activity andhonours. In April of 1877 Saint-Sa?½ns resigned his post atthe Madeleine, after disagreements with the clergy. Hisincreased activity as a composer and touring virtuoso,however, probably hastened the decision. With theexception of an honorary appointment as organist at SaintSeverin in 1897, he never again held an organ position.

He remained active, however, as an organ recitalist andcontinued to compose for the instrument for theremainder of his life, publishing his last organ work in1919, two years before his death. 1881 saw his election tothe Academie des Beaux-Arts, and 1886 the premi?¿re ofhis so-called Organ Symphony, which was to become oneof his most famous works. His opera Samson et Dalilawas first staged in Paris in 1892, and in 1893 he receivedan honorary doctorate from Cambridge University inEngland. 1906 found him touring America where hereturned in 1915 to appear at the San Francisco World'sFair. A fervent patriot during the years of the Great War,he maintained his concert activity and wrote severalpatriotic works. One of his last compositions, Cypr?¿s etLauriers for organ and orchestra, was written in 1919 tocelebrate the Allied victory.

After a brief illness Saint-Sa?½ns died at the H??tel del'Oasis, in his beloved Algiers, on 16th December 1921.

At his burial in Montparnasse cemetery on 24thDecember the organist Charles-Marie Widor, asperpetual secretary of the Academie des Beaux-Arts,spoke in the name of the Institut de France:

"His example and his work remain. The man isno more, but his spirit hovers over the world,alive and glorious, and will continue to hover aslong as we have instruments and orchestras.""
Item number 8557285
Barcode 747313228522
Release date 01/01/2005
Label Naxos Records
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Robert Delcamp
Composers Camille Saint-Saens
Producers Wolfgang Rubsam
Disc: 1
Fantaisie in E flat major
1 Prelude and Fugue in E flat major, Op. 99, No. 3
2 Rhapsody on Breton Melodies in F major, Op. 7, No.
3 I. Molto lento
4 II. Feria Pentecostes
5 III. Poco adagio
6 IV. Allegretto
7 V. Pro Martyribus
8 VI. Pro Defunctis
9 VII. Allegro giocoso
10 Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78, "Organ": Poco a
11 Fantaisie in E flat major
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