Music and Vision homepage Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller


<<  -- 2 --  Robert Anderson    Day of judgement


The Requiem came about in 1878 as the result of a princely bequest from Albert Libon to stimulate Saint-Saëns yet further in his musical fluency. Libon deserved a Requiem, and his soul was rewarded with a work that is both deeply felt and concise. Saint-Saëns had just completed a 20-year stint at the Madeleine in Paris, where Liszt heard him improvising and pronounced him the world's greatest organist. It is no surprise therefore that Saint-Saëns' day of judgement uses a last organ with as much effect as a last trump. The Dies irae text is despatched with speed, and we are at the Tuba mirum within the first minute [listen -- track 3, 0:00-1:15]. Soloists and the trinity of choirs give an altogether worthy and expressive performance. The organ playing of James O'Donnell, however, seems to me a near miracle, if indeed the rest of the forces were recorded in January 1993, and the Westminster Cathedral organ joined in only during the following April. Either pitch, tempo and balance were so calculated in advance that the result is seamless ensemble, or technical recording tricks are such that whatever emerged from the cathedral could be painlessly adjusted in to the Procrustes bed of the Requiem.

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Copyright © 27 March 2002 Robert Anderson, London, UK




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