Thursday, May 05, 2011

SONGS I LIKE: The Organ Symphony (Camile Saint-Saens)

"I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again."
-Camile Saint Saens

I don't write these about instrumentals for a couple of reasons. First, the words are what I want to analyze because how they interact with the music makes a complete song. Second, if you haven't heard the music, its meaningless to read about a description of music. Videos from You Tube tend not to last long due to copyright and other concerns, and they don't usually have very good sound anyway.

But... this song breaks all those rules. If you've heard it before you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you haven't go get a copy now. Stop reading, go listen to it. Most people who say they don't like classical music haven't really listened to much and haven't heard some of the magnificent, powerful pieces with a really strong hook like this one.

This symphony is one of the few that actually has an organ with it, which in my opinion is a serious mistake among composers. For all those composers, Camiles Saint Saens stepped up to the plate and knocked the ball completely out of orbit, let alone the park. The full name of this piece is Concerto No 3 in C Minor, Opus 78 and it was Saint-Saens' final symphony, written 1886. Its just over a half hour long.

The organ in this piece is so powerful and so dominant you can barely hear any other instrument when it plays, and you cannot hear it without being moved. This ain't granny playing on the Wurlitzer, this isn't some 70s rock band with warbling keyboards, this is Pipe Organ played exactly how they are meant to be played.

I can't really describe the piece, but when it gets to the 4th movement you've been humming a great theme that is explored different ways and suddenly your jaw drops. The organ is mind blowing, and the only way to understand is to hear it. So here's one You Tube extract of the last movement for you to experience (sorry no embeds, just tab Youtube up and let it play).

Some songs have to be heard turned up loud. This one has to be listened to so loud your ears hurt and the wind from the woofers hits you in the chest. Let your bones rattle.

*This is part of the Songs I Like series.


Jonathan Cook said...

Very well put.

I have nothing to add except that it has left me open-mouthed, speechless, and misty-eyed on many occasions.

Alex VanderWoude said...

I grew up hearing this piece (and many others, of course), and in my opinion it is one of the greatest examples in the history of Western music. What you said, man, what you said.