The Utah Symphony launches a three-disc survey of Saint-Saëns’ orchestral music in style under Thierry Fischer’s eloquent, incisive baton. If the intention is to whet the appetite for more, this coupling of a crowd-pleaser, a rare triptych of incidental music and a burst of erotic carousing does the trick.

The atmosphere-laced symphonic tableaux from La Foi (Faith) were fashioned from music for a 1909 Pharaonic drama. Encountered on Saint-Saëns’ sojourns in the Middle East, traditional scales are bent to extremes to produce a darkly perfumed experience. Fischer deftly accommodates the exotic and emotional while his Utah players find the requisite poetry and power. The Bacchanale from Samson et Dalila receives exuberant treatment with spirited strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion enjoying themselves while falling politely short of complete intoxication.

The Organ Symphony gets off to a splendid start, the orchestra’s instinctive muscularity tempered by Fischer’s engaging Gallic fluidity. His attention to detail creates a vivid, liquid sense of ensemble. The Poco adagio is stretched into bewitching passages of long-breathed poetry, Paul Jacobs’ gentle introduction of the organ a thing of beauty. The finale is wondrous, the soaring tune at its centre a clarion call. Recorded live in the accommodating acoustic of Abravanel Hall, this finely recorded disc benefits from not a hint of distracting noises-off.

Composer: Saint-Saëns
Composition: Symphony No 3
Performer: Paul Jacobs org, Utah Symphony/Thierry Fischer
Catalogue Number: Hyperion CDA68201

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