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Saint-Saëns' Spectacular

12 NOV 12 JASON SERINUS

When Telarc released its first digital recording of Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 "Organ" in 1980, the world sat up and took notice. Recorded without any limiting, equalization, or compression (other than the dynamic compression inherent to the CD medium itself), organist Michael Murray's account with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy must have blown the bass drivers in more than one overly sedate home stereo, and shaken Aunt Lucy's china off its shelf.

Even today, after 32 years of advancement in digital recording and filtering techniques, Telarc's pioneer recording amazes with its three-dimensional spaciousness, bass wallop, and surprising absence of a harsh digital edge. I confess that I was astounded at my ability to turn the volume way up on my high-end sound system without needing to protect my ears from the scourge of early digital brightness. In fact, the only protection necessary was to make sure the doors and windows were closed, so that my early-to-bed neighbors were not up in arms.

Saint-Saëns' "Organ Symphony," as it is often called, is a trip and a half. The composer intentionally holds back in the first movement, saving his arsenal of pipes and sonic effects for the second movement finale. You'll especially appreciate veteran recording engineer Jack Renner's mastery with the new digital medium when everything gets going at once, yet manages to sound remarkably clear. A definite "wow" experience.