Between 1857 and 1877, Saint-Saëns was organist at La Madeleine in Paris, and it is on the 1846 organ of that church that Andrew-John Smith plays his latest selection of the French composer's organ music. The main pieces here – the three pairs of Preludes and Fugues Op 109, and the seven Improvisations Op 150 – may postdate Saint-Saëns's Madeleine tenure, but it was still surely the reedy sound of that particular organ he had in mind when they were composed. The Improvisations, in particular, look back to the improvisations Saint-Saëns regularly included as part of his organist's duties, performances which, contemporary listeners maintained, were so perfectly proportioned and thoroughly worked out they often could not be distinguished from fully notated works. The preludes and fugues make a sharply contrasted trio: the first and last, in D minor and C, are grand in scale and conception; the second, in G, is much more compact and relaxed. Smith makes full use of the resources of the Madeleine instrument to colour them all.
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