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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 15 March 2012
Now here's a bargain: two old Telarc issues combined into one 76 minute CD offering a definitive performance of the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony in spectacular sound and a fine sweep of French organ music from Couperin to Dupré. Made in Ormandy's last year at the helm of the Philadelphia, it serves as a fine memorial to a conductor at his best. While I love both the vintage recordings from the same team with Power Biggs in 1959 and Munch, the Boston Symphony and Zamkochian in 1962,this is digital and enhanced by the nine bonus tracks providing the French survey, all played by Michael Murray in Boston. My favourites are the Widor Toccata and the Bach Sinfonia.

Ormandy's interpretation changed hardly a jot over the years: it is strong and propulsive with a good few nervy accelerandi and not much Gallic charm; he clearly saw this as mostly a wild ride. The orchestral sound is massive and robust; this is not a subtle performance but this music is, after all, a display piece with great tunes, not the Goldbergs.
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on 1 January 2017
Deserves its reputation
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on 15 February 2014
This remains a top ranking version of the main work, backed up in this coupling by enjoyable extras. Buy it now!
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VINE VOICEon 25 January 2014
Saint-Saens Symphony No 3, "Organ", is one of my most favourite pieces of music.

Vigorous, life-affirming, majestic in some parts, in other parts, meditative, sensitive and delicate. And this particular rendition, by Michael Murray and the Philadelphia Orchestra, does the symphony full justice.

The second movement was of course used to good effect in the film "Babe" about the piglet who, at once accepting his fate in life, nonetheless determines and strives to fulfil and excel in the role life has allotted to him.

The second movement of this symphony projects an underlying natural spirituality, almost hymn-like quality that was well chosen as the musical back-drop to the film. As such, the second movement always brings to my mind the final scene in "Babe" when Babe, having delivered success and also saved his friends against all the odds, looks up to his Master, the farmer, who in turn gazes down on Babe and says those simple but memorable words, "You'll do, pig, you'll do".

Let us hope that, when we each eventually stand in front of our own Master, He will find reason enough to judge our endeavours in the same terms.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 18 January 2014
Now here's a bargain: two old Telarc issues combined into one 76 minute CD offering a definitive performance of the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony in spectacular sound and a fine sweep of French organ music from Couperin to Dupré. Made in Ormandy's last year at the helm of the Philadelphia, it serves as a fine memorial to a conductor at his best. While I love both the vintage recordings from the same team with Power Biggs in 1959 and Munch, the Boston Symphony and Zamkochian in 1962,this is digital and enhanced by the nine bonus tracks providing the French survey, all played by Michael Murray in Boston. My favourites are the Widor Toccata and the Bach Sinfonia.

Ormandy's interpretation changed hardly a jot over the years: it is strong and propulsive with a good few nervy accelerandi and not much Gallic charm; he clearly saw this as mostly a wild ride. The orchestral sound is massive and robust; this is not a subtle performance but this music is, after all, a display piece with great tunes, not the Goldbergs.
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on 14 September 2003
The Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 ("Organ Symphony") is without question the most famous, and most frequently-performed, work in the symphonic repertoire for this pairing of forces. Over the years, it has received the attention of many conductors. A quick search of available recordings shows that most speciaiists in the French repertoire have committed performances to disc: Charles Dutoit, Charles Munch, Georges Pretre, Andre Cluytens, Paul Paray, Jean Martinon, Sir Thomas Beecham, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Jean Fournet, Michel Plasson, Louis de Froment, Louis Fremaux (some of them with multiple recordings).
But, for all that "French specialization," the all-time record for most recordings of this work is held by a Hungarian, Eugene Ormandy. The record (no pun intended) shows that Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded this work at least four times: twice with E. Power Biggs (the first of which, in the mid-'50s, is how I first came to know the work), once with Virgil Fox, and, finally (almost as a "career summation") with Michael Murray on this splendid Telarc CD.
Recorded at a time (1980) when Ormandy was preparing to relinquish his Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director position to his successor, Riccardo Muti, and when the novelty of digital recording was still unique enough that Telarc, in the vanguard of this technology, succeeded in securing recording rights for several major U.S. orchestras (including three of the "big five" if only for a limited number of releases), this performance is the equal of any, and the sound (from an unusual venue for the Philadelphia Orchestra, the St. Francis de Sales Church) remains "state of the art" nearly a quarter-century later. It is, arguably, one of the very best recordings of the Philadelphia Orchestra ever made, irrespective of repertoire. And the Cavaillé-Coll organ installation at St. Francis de Sales is a "near-twin" to the instruments actually played countless times by Saint-Saëns in Paris (at Notre Dame and at the Madeleine church).
Saint-Saëns was both a child prodigy and a composer who lived, and composed over, a long and fruitful life. But he was "only" fifty when he wrote this final symphony of his; all of his subsequent works were in different genres. He thought it a fitting capstone to his symphonic output, and who are we to argue? Composed in 1888, when Johannes Brahms was the leading symphonist of the day and such young "upstarts" as Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler were beginning to gain attention, Saint-Saëns's compositional aesthetic for the work (save for the fact that it incorporates the organ) is almost "reactionary" by comparison. It is immediately accessible to virtually anyone, such is its appeal. An adjective often used to describe Saint-Saëns's writing in this work is "suave"; I think this characterization is spot-on.
The Philadelphia Orchestra has rarely if ever sounded better than it does here. Famous for its "silky strings" during Ormandy's tenure, the whole orchestra is a model of refinement so vital for realizing the suave writings of Saint-Saëns; all choirs of the orchestra exhibit this refinement at every dynamic level. The organ-orchestra balances are perfect (clearly, Telarc did a remarkable job in establishing these balances in what is often a tricky venue, that of a rather reverberent church). And the dynamic and frequency ranges of the recording are nothing short of astounding; of present-day "demo" quality despite the passage of a quarter century.
My only complaint about this CD – and it is admittedly one that is "pocketbook dependent" – is that it offers rather a small amount of music for its cost. When it was newly-released (as a fairly early Telarc CD transfer from a 1980 digitially-mastered LP), matters were different, and CDs offering significantly more playing time than this one does were the exception. Nowadays, with 75+ minute CDs a routine matter, this recording – good as it is – should either be remastered to include more music (not a problem, given Telarc's large catalog), or offered as a "super budget" reissue (also not a problem, since Telarc has such a product line). This is the ONLY issue that keeps me from giving this recording a 5-star rating. For interpretive and sonic reasons, it clearly deserves such a rating; it remains the best recording of this work after all these years.
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on 11 February 2014
I am very disappointed, It plays only stereo, I do not know if there is SACD surround layer or my Oppo BDP 105D doesn't see it?
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I have several versions of this popular work in the collection on both LP and CD but this is my favourite. There are recordings that are more recent and therefore a tad clearer, like that by Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony. Peter Hurford is masterful on the organ for Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony on Decca, my second choice. But for an overall sumptuous sound combined with clarity in the orchestral detail, my vote at No.1 would be for Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
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VINE VOICEon 5 February 2011
When CDs were first launched in 1983, the Telarc label was synonymous with top quality recordings, particularly with regard to the recording of bass drums and dynamic range. Having already purchased a number of Telarc recordings and been suitably impressed, I was eager to hear their version of the Saent Saens Organ Symphony under Ormandy.
It is indeed a fine recording, with plenty of dynamic range, especially in the last movement, where the fortissimo organ entry really shakes the room. There are no other works on the disc, but at budget price, no complaints can be made in this quarter. The problem for this, and other versions, is the new recording under EschenbachSaint-Saens - Symphony No. 3 'Organ'/Poulenc - Organ Concerto/Barber - Toccata Festiva. The Slow second movement of this symphony, relies more than any other work, on the 32 foot organ pedal underpinning the orchestra, and the Eschenbach does this better than any other version I know. Unless you have a subwoofer in your system, you are unlikely to appreciate the difference, and in that case, the Ormandy version is perfectly adequate. A pity, the four movements are not individually indexed.

Andrew Taylor

Worsley, Manchester
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on 1 October 2010
This is a fabulous recording & performance.

I own many versions but absolutely adore this one for it is the best recording and performance that keeps drawing me back.

My stereo system is in a dedicated listening room with the following hi-fi gear...

PLINIUS 9200 amplifier
DENON DCD700AE cd player
B&W DM603 S3 loud speakers
QED QUNEX2 interconnects
KIMBER 8TC loud speaker cables

So....this version has so much more deep bass and detail....detail I have not heard on any of the other highly recommended versions.

The performs seems to jump out of the loud speakers, shakes you and commands your undivided attention from beginning to end.

The organ is so vivid and so detailed.

It is an absolute pleasure to own this fabulous Telarc account of Saint-Saens' titanic 3rd symphony.
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