Mariss Jansons - Iveta Apkalna

Two great symphonic organ concertos can be heard on the new CD from BR-KLASSIK: the famous Organ Symphony by Camille Saint-Saëns and the lesser-known but highly impressive Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani by Francis Poulenc. The Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks is conducted by Mariss Jansons, and the organ soloist is the excellent Latvian musician Iveta Apkalna, one of the most renowned concert organists of our time. The two masterpieces were recorded in early March, 2019 at concerts in Munich’s Philharmonie im Gasteig.

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The French pianist, organist and composer Camille Saint-Saëns studied at the Paris Conservatoire and worked for many years as an organist at important Parisian churches: from 1852 he was at Saint-Séverin, from 1854 in Saint- Merri, and from 1858 to 1877 in the parish church of La Madeleine, with its important organ built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. He then went on to relinquish his job and his teaching posts at the Ecole Niedermeyer so as to be able to devote himself entirely to composition. In his Symphony no. 3 in C minor, op. 78, the so-called ”Organ Symphony” of 1886, the composer succeeded in integrating the organ into the musical fabric of a symphonic work. It is a “symphony with organ”, rather than a concerto for the solo instrument organ and orchestra. Of this, the last of his five symphonies, Saint-Saëns wrote: “Here, I gave everything I was able to give. What I have here accomplished I will never achieve again.”

His compatriot, the French pianist and composer Francis Poulenc, belonged to a later generation. In 1936, at the age of almost 40, the composer embraced the Catholic faith as a result of several strokes of misfortune. He went on to write many sacred works and also several pieces for the stage on Christian themes, one of them being the opera “Dialogues of the Carmelites” (1957), which ranks as one of the most important music-theatre works of the 20th century. His Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani in G minor, Poulenc’s only work for the organ, was composed in 1938 at the request of a woman patron. At a time when it was no longer customary to present a solo concerto for organ, the work, with its unusual choice of instruments, is a tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach. In contrast to the organ compositions by the Baroque master, of course, Poulenc wrote for a large organ that could achieve impressive sound effects. The concerto, first performed by Maurice Duruflé, is today one of Poulenc’s most-performed works.

The Latvian concert organist Iveta Apkalna, who in 2005 was the first organist to receive an ECHO Klassik award, debuted in 2007 with the Berlin Philharmonic under Claudio Abbado and has performed all over the world ever since. As the titular organist of the new Klais organ at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, she played at the opening of the new concert hall in 2017 with world premieres of works by Wolfgang Rihm, together with Thomas Hengelbrock and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester. In 2018, she received prestigious music awards in Latvia in the “Musician of the Year” and “Concert of the Year” categories, and that same year, as part of the centennial celebrations of the Republic of Latvia, she was awarded the highest state order of merit in the country.

Iveta Apkalna, organ
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Mariss Jansons, conductor

1 CD highprice
Product Number: 900178
Total Time: 60’47 min.

  • Excellent performances of two great symphonic organ concertos of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
    Recent live recording from March 2019, in Munich’s Philharmonie im Gasteig
    The soloist is the outstanding Latvian concert organist Iveta Apkalna, she is accompanied by the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks under its chief conductor Mariss Jansons