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Saint-saëns


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I was intrigued to see that Stefan Johannes Bleicher has recorded the lot on 4 CDs. Does anyone know this set? Is it worth getting? On the face of it, the whole lot for less than a tenner seems worth a punt.

 

'Not sure about this but I think Priory also has a set coming out soon. It probably will not be the same price though.

 

AJJ

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I was intrigued to see that Stefan Johannes Bleicher has recorded the lot on 4 CDs. Does anyone know this set? Is it worth getting? On the face of it, the whole lot for less than a tenner seems worth a punt.

 

Well....

 

I have this set, and have to admit to being underwhelmed by the playing - IMHO it lacks fire and is mostly lacklustre. Some of the more familiar pieces are not badly played, but (at the risk of sounding catty) the rest sounds like sight-reading (notes only, very little emotion)

 

I shall pull it out and have another listen - perhaps the years passed since I last heard it will cause me to have a kinder opinion.

 

Or not. :D

 

Cheers,

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I don't know the Bleicher set, but I have to tell you that it received quite bad reviews in German and French organ forums.

Perhaps it is worth noting that there is a single CD on the Naxos label, played by Robert Delcamp (included in the label's "Organ Encyclopaedia"-series). Following their example of Dupré, Reger and other composers, it becomes perhaps a complete recording.

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Thanks for your replies. Seems like a thumbs down then!

 

 

I actually have this set: I have played it once, and thought it was OK- it is not going to set the world on fire but I preferred it to his Liszt or Mendelssohn offerings. I suspect that with the probable exception of JSB (and possibly Mendelssohn) most sets of "complete works" (for organ), especially those that include absolutely everything, including discarded earlier versions etc, are necessarily going to be played by someone who does not have all the works in their repertoire: of course, how much time is devoted to learning them before they are set down is an issue that might be worth considering in more detail.

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Thanks for your replies. Seems like a thumbs down then!

Well, not entirely so, I think. It is true, Bleicher is not the most vivid of players. The pieces that are rather bucolic in character, though, sound sweet and fine.

 

A big plus are the organs chosen for the recording. They are big Swiss instruments from the German-romantic tradition. This may seem odd at first glance, but there are surprisingly little passages in Saint-Saëns's music which require the full Cavaillé-Coll blast.

 

The instruments are the historical Kuhn at St. Johann, Schaffhausen

( see http://tinyurl.com/yckpf7 )

and the Walcker-Kuhn organ in the Stadtkirche Winterthur.

( see http://tinyurl.com/y9l9og )

 

The strength of both instruments lies in their beautiful foundations: flutes sweet or full, strings in many shadings from bottomless Violones to edgy Fugaras, and choruses that have quite a bit of romantic weight and sparkle. There also are some intriguingly beautiful free reeds. The organs are very well recorded by Hans Joachim Röhrs, who is an experienced sound engineer and a profound organ scholar as well. He knew what to catch, and did catch it beautifully.

 

The recordings allow for a beautiful as well as inexpensive encounter with all (!) of Saint-Saëns's organ compositions, and with a style of organ sound quite distinguished. Give the recordings some time -- I certainly needed to go back to them time and again --, and you might discover a growing fondness for them.

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

P. S.

Stephan Bleicher, by the way, is quite some player. I once heard him playing BWV 564 on the wonderful Marcussen in the Münster, Freiburg (Germany). He played the fugue on one single stop: the Rückpositiv 4-foot Rohrflöte, quite a beauty in itself. Bleicher managed to play at breakneck speed, but still completely clean, and with a pedal touch so restrained that it did not disturb the delicate sound.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Well I bought the set. I have to say that I did find it rather lacklustre. I was thankful that Bleicher's playing is rhythmical, but I felt that it is also rather matter-of-fact and could have done with more warmth (in nuances of tempo) and more vivid projection.

 

But that is not the only - or even perhaps - the main problem. The organs are, as Friedrich says, very fine instruments of their type. But to my mind the comparatively monochrome colour of the "German" type of symphonic organ doesn't do the music justice (e.g. the Clarinette really does not sound all that different from the Voix Célestes - or indeed anything else). Nor do the instruments have quite the "singing" trebles of Cavaillé-Coll's fonds and in one or two pieces the top line is quite difficult to hear, being almost eclipsed by the lower notes. I guess they're just not my sort of organ.

 

As for the music itself, it is interesting and worth knowing, but with some exceptions (notably the Preludes and Fugues) it doesn't have the depth I expected. I found myself likening Saint-Saëns to a sort of French John Stainer!

 

But for all that this sounds rather negative, I really am pleased to have these discs.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
I understand that Gerard Brooks may have plans to record the complete Saint Saens shortly which would almost certainly be on a leading French organ.

 

 

He will still encounter the same problem, which is: fine though Saint Saens was/is as a composer, there are relatively few works that grab and hold the attention. I'm sure Gerard would make a good job of it, and he's clearly found the proper route to some of the best French Symphonic organs which would be perfect.... but...as far as organ works go, S-S is still what the French call a 'petit-maitre'. You could say the same about Gigout (which he's done) Boellmann (which Harold Britton's done) and Dubois (which, as far as I know, remains to be done by anyone). You get four or five splendid pieces - usually about five minutes long (usually already well-recorded) and then the rest.....which tails off in interest, sometimes quite dramatically.

 

I think a pre-requisite for an 'all-one-composer' CD (and I've done a few now) is that they have written a couple of really solid, substantial works around which one can pile a varied selection of shorter pieces.

 

If we're onto the subject of 'all-one-composer' CDs, my vote in recent times goes to Jeremy Filsell's fine disc of Grunenwald from Notre Dame de France, Leicester Place. It's very strange/unusual and quite wonderful at times.

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If we're onto the subject of 'all-one-composer' CDs, my vote in recent times goes to Jeremy Filsell's fine disc of Grunenwald from Notre Dame de France, Leicester Place. It's very strange/unusual and quite wonderful at times.

 

Ah - do you have any details of this please, Paul? I have heard one or two of his works (recorded at S. Sulpice) and I think that they are rather good. I also have a CD with several tracks of his improviastions (same venue) and they are superb - quite different to Cochereau, Dupré or Pincemaille.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Ah - do you have any details of this please, Paul? I have heard one or two of his works (recorded at S. Sulpice) and I think that they are rather good. I also have a CD with several tracks of his improviastions (same venue) and they are superb - quite different to Cochereau, Dupré or Pincemaille.

 

ALERT We're off at a tangent, you do know?!

 

Filsell's Grunenwald CD is on Herald [HAVPCD 239]

and it was issued in 2000 - they should have a few left.

 

The music is easily on a par with Langlais and Alain and more interesting (to me) than later Messiaen.

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ALERT We're off at a tangent, you do know?!

 

Filsell's Grunenwald CD is on Herald [HAVPCD 239]

and it was issued in 2000 - they should have a few left.

 

The music is easily on a par with Langlais and Alain and more interesting (to me) than later Messiaen.

 

But, Paul, tangential discussions usually turnout to be very fruitful! B)

 

In all seriousness.... I have this Filsell CD and it is WONDERFUL... I've also got a number of Grunenwald scores, and I find that his music is VERY finely crafted, unusual and interesting. Pity it has been mostly neglected up until now.

 

Getting back to St.-Saens - somewhere I have a recording I did of the 6 P+F a few years ago... if I can dig it out I'll post links to mp3s (assuming I still like my interpretations after all of these years!) :P

 

Cheerio,

 

-G

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