Quarter notes: Organ Symphony at Benaroya Hall

It’s doubtful Saint-Saens will ever be looked on favorably by snooty music historians. Early in his career he embraced Wagner and Liszt, championed the symphonic poem even, but later, he fiercely resisted the influence of France’s growing impressionistic crowd. Unabashed melody abounds in his music and It is fair to say the finale to his Organ Symphony is one of the most uplifting conclusions in all of classical music. This week’s SSO concerts feature Saint Saens’ towering cathedral of sound along with Strauss’ own towering Also Sprach Zarathustra. Melinda Bargreen at the Times seemed to like the concert Thursday which included yet another Gund/Simonyi commission.

The G/S commissions aren’t wearing well on me. Last week’s False Alarming by George Tsontakis was another cacophonous contribution. The piece, slipped between Hovhaness’ Mt. Ararat and Mt. Saint Helens, was barely noticed by the befuddled people around me who, because of an error in the program, were expecting the orchestra to play False Alarming first. A short announcement from the stage might have created at least a little excitement for the work. I haven’t heard all of the commissions this season, but to me they seem too short to matter. Maybe I am hearing the wrong ones.


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