<< -- 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.
Copyright © 27 March 2002
Robert Anderson, London, UK
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