Classical Candor‘s John J. Puccio requires a new recording of a work like the Saint-Saëns “Organ Symphony” “to offer either a performance of superior quality or sound that knocks your socks off. Preferably both.” Does the new Kansas City Symphony CD meet the requirements?
“Under Stern, the symphony’s opening movement is appropriately restless, its familiar theme reworked several times over in various guises and tempos. It leads smoothly into the Poco adagio, which sounds just as serene as Saint-Saens intended. When the organ enters, it should appear as a huge, warm, gentle wave rolling over us at the beach, and it does. It’s a most-refreshing experience, because in some recordings the primary notes are so low the recording barely reproduces them. Here, we actually feel them. … The disc couplings for the symphony are Saint-Saens’s fairly well known Introduction and Rondo capriccioso and the less well known La muse et le poete. Violinist Noah Geller in the Capriccioso and violinist Noah Geller and cellist Mark Gibbs in La muse play some lovely notes, and the orchestral accompaniment sounds flawless. … This was the first time I’d heard [La muse et le poete], and it’s beautiful. What a great revelation. … The resultant sound is resplendent and ideally captures the grandeur of Saint-Saens’s music. The orchestra displays wonderful dimensionality. We hear it laid out before us in four dimensions: side to side and front to back, with air around the instruments. There is also a great dynamic spread with plenty of punch, a modest distancing, good midrange transparency, and a mild hall resonance to set it all off in a most-natural manner. Most important for the symphony, the organ sounds deep, rich, solid, and clean. As usual with Reference Recordings, this is splendidly lifelike sound, with no artificial enhancement, close-up miking, or editing-console gimmicky.”