22 December 2022

P.R. Jenkins

Spotlight Saint-Saëns: The “Organ Symphony”

“All right, let’s make beautiful music together.”

Karajan starting a rehearsal with the Berlin Philharmonic of Saint-Saëns’ 3rd symphony on 27 January 1983


Camille Saint-Saëns’ career was more than twice as long as Schubert’s entire life. When he was born in 1835, Cherubini was still composing. When he died 86 years later, works by composers like Honegger and Poulenc had been already performed. Saint-Saëns was one of the most important French composers in the second half of the 19th century. Many of his compositions are still in the repertoire today, above all the 3rd symphony, the solo concertos for piano, the 3rd violin concerto, the indispensable 1st cello concerto (which Karajan conducted three times in concert with Pierre Fournier) and the famous “Carnaval des Animaux”. Saint-Saëns died on 16 December 1921.

The only piece by Saint-Saëns that Karajan recorded was the 3rd symphony, the “Organ Symphony”, with soloist Pierre Cochereau and the Berlin Philharmonic in 1981. Listen to it here.

“In this work, I have given everything I have to give […] What I’ve achieved here, I will never achieve again.”
Saint-Saëns about his “Organ Symphony”

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