Re-edition - first released in SACD format, 2006
Ingenious developments in organ-building in France in the 19th century gave rise to a repertoire of colorful, grandiose, and virtuosic music. At the time, musical life was focused on the few musicians who both held the posts of organist at prestigious centers, and were also composers. Guilmant, Vierne, and Widor wrote a considerable amount of music for the organ, while Saint-Saëns, though a prolific composer, wrote only a few works for organ. His Symphony No. 3 ("Organ Symphony") was an attempt at the modern and avant-garde, with a major part for the organ and with a piano played by four-hands used as an orchestral instrument.
Philippe Bélanger, the young musician who holds the post of official organist at the Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, recorded this disc on the Oratory's imposing five-manual Von Beckerath organ. For the "Organ Symphony", the orchestra was positioned below the organ loft and, with the help of cameras for synchronization, recorded simultaneously with the organ. The presence of the orchestra beside the splendid organ within an acoustically rich and generous space allows this work to resound in its full, solemn dimensions.
Von Beckerath five-manual organ, Saint-Joseph's Oratory, Montreal