Church Flowers - Saint Saens

I have been put on church flower duty for the next three weeks (thank you to my mother-in-law who put me down for February - garden very dead).  So I resorted to a few Lilies and Chrysanthemums from Tescos plus the odd bit of rather sorry looking greenery from my garden.  Actually to my surprise the arrangement doesn’t look too bad but go to get some water from the tap in the vestry - no water.  I go home to get a watering can - not even a couple of hefty kicks can persuade the garden shed to open as the door is so warped due to all the rain.  So I resort to a bucket and a few pot holes later I get back to the church and find a swimming pool in the back of my car.  Oh I do love doing the church flowers!

The work I am going to recommend this week is the magnificent Saint Saens Symphony No 3, known as the Organ Symphony which has to be one of the greatest pieces of music ever written and is a must for any music library.


Charles-Camille Saint Saens (1835-1921) was a French organist, composer and pianist from the Romantic era and is one of the most distinguished musicians of his generation.  And as if that wasn't enough, he was also a mathematician, philosopher and an astronomer.   He gave his first concert aged five and first played a Mozart Piano Concerto in Concert aged ten after which he offered as an encore any one of Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas from memory. 

This work is a Symphony but includes the organ in the 2nd and 4th movements hence it’s title.  Saint Saens said of this work “I gave everything to it I was able to give.  What I have accomplished here I will never achieve again”.  The work was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society and Saint Saens came over to London to conduct it.

Saint Saens acknowledged a considerable indebtedness to Franz Liszt and received hands-on support and encouragement from him (Liszt called him the “greatest organist in the world”).  This symphony was an outright tribute to Liszt and the manuscript bears his name.  Similar to much of Liszt’s work, Saint Saens introduces a theme in the first movement which you hear being transformed in various guises throughout the entire work.

The organ appears in all its' splendour in the final movement where it bursts onto the scene as though it is going to raise the roof.  It enters majestically and expands in grandeur, building up to a huge climax at the end.

The recording I recommend of this work is with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lorin Mazel, I particularly like this recording because they are using an immensely powerful organ and it certainly raises the roof.  The whole symphony is fantastic, but if you wanted to you could just download the final movement.

Listen to the Finale (not the recommended recording) on Youtube

Download from iTunes

Buy from Amazon  


Posted on February 6, 2014 and filed under Romantic Period.