1886: Saint-Saëns: Symphony N0.3 “Organ Symphony,” age 51

Riccardo Minasi – 38:06

Why is this performance so amazing?

Part of it is the slower tempo in parts.

The first movement is almost 12 minutes long even when subtracting 30 seconds between the beginning of the video and the first entrance of the orchestra.

Both Paul Paray and Charles Munch made famous recordings that are now frequently cited as references. The first movement in both of these recordings is about 10 minutes long. So how much difference does it make when another recording is almost two minutes longer? The answer is absolutely huge. One conductor who was known as for interpreting things much slower is Sergiu Celibidache. Listeners are wildly divided over his interpretations, but for me some of them are quite amazing.

In this recording, Riccardo Minasi in my opinion is doing much the same thing. There is so much detail, so many things that I have never heard from any other conductor. After at least a dozen listenings there is no other interpretation that I want to hear. He stops time. Not only am I mesmerized by what he is doing, it immediately pushed me to explore everything else I can find by Riccardo Minasi.

I think this may be the slowest performance I have been able to find, and I have done quite a bit of checking. The miraculous part is that it seems to go on forever and at the same time it seems to be over in almost no time at all. I was out walking while listening last night and about 38 minutes of music went by so fast that I couldn’t believe it.

Let’s add to this fact that this marvelous orchestra plays as well as any orchestra I have ever heard, both in live performances and on recordings. What should we mention first? The strings? The woodwinds? The brass? The percussion? The whole group is a wonder!

The recording quality is wonderful. And as a bonus to all the rest, look at the way the video was shot. I find this whole thing an absolute miracle. I would say that this performance is one of the ten best I have heard in my lifetime, and I would not pick any other as superior. The fact that it is live is absolutely amazing.

Riccardo Minasi

I. Adagio – Allegro moderato

II. Poco adagio

III. Allegro moderato – Presto

IV. Maestoso – Allegro

This symphony, like its author’s fourth Pianoforte Concerto, and Sonata for Piano and Violin, is divided into two movements. Nevertheless, it contains, in principle, the four traditional movements; but the first, arrested in development, serves as an Introduction to the Adagio, and the Scherzo is linked by the same process to the Finale.

Instruments:

  • 3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon
  • 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba
  • timpani, triangle, cymbals, bass drum
  • piano (two and four hands), organ
  • strings

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