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Price: $15,000.00

Scarce and historical autographed and inscribed first edition full partitur score of Saint-Saëns masterpiece, his 3rd Symphony in C minor op. 78.  The score was printed in Paris in November, 1886.  The composer dedicates the score on the title page to the Composer and Director of the Conservatoire Nationale de Paris, Ambroise Thomas.  Thomas, one of the most powerful musicians in Paris was an important voice in the early promotion of the work.  The composer writes:

 

Á mon cher vénér confrére Ambroise Thomas, C. Saint-Saëns (To my dear venerable colleague Ambroise Thomas, C. Saint-Saëns)

 

A la Mémoire de FRANZ LISZT/3e/Symphonie/en ut mineur/PAR/Camille Saint-Saëns/op: 78./Pattition d’Orchestre Pr. Net:30f  á 4 mains par L. Roques….. Pr. Net.:/Parties d’Orchestre.  Pr. Net: 36.f    á 2 Pianos 4 mains par l’Auteur Pr. net:/Paris, DURAND & SCHOENEWERK, Editeurs,/4 Place de la Madeleine,/Déposé selon les traités internationaux Proprieté Pr. tous pays/Tous droits d’audition, de representation, de reproduction, detraduction et d’arrangement réservés/IMP DELANCHY & Cie, PARIS/DS (confirmed Ratner vol. I, p. 310) Note, there is a slightly later score with a plain title page and same plate number which is sometimes proffered as the first edition.)

The score is vertical folio format (10” x 13.25”) with marble paper over board custom binding and a Moroccan spine with end corners.  The spine is embossed in gold, SAINT-SAËNS and beneath, SYMPHONIE.  One free endpaper, with slight separation from cover, decorative title page as described above, 1st page of the score starts on page 1 and ends on page 176, plate D.S. 3700. There is light pencil markings denoting specific instruments periodically in the score.

The composer (1835-1921) received a letter from the pianist and composer Francesco Berger in his position as Director and Honorary Secretary of the Philharmonic Society of London dated, August 3, 1885.  Berger requested Saint-Saëns come to London and play one of your concertos, or to compose a new one and play it, or to play a concerto by some other master, whichever you prefer……they would prefer you to appear in one of your own compositions.  He offered him dates from March through June of 1886 for the concert.  He also stated that Sir Arthur Sullivan would conduct.  Berger followed up with a second letter, Would you be able to compose some Symphonic Work expressly for next season?... Saint-Saëns agreed to produce such a work.

The composer wrote to his publisher Auguste Durand on February 19, 1886, You will have the first half 15 March and the second at the end of that month…….I am going to experiment a great deal in this formidable thing…… He wrote to Berger in March, The symphony is in the works, I am warning you it will be formidable….This devil of a symphony has risen by a semitone; it didn’t want to remain in B minor, it is now in C minor……I am looking forward to conducting this symphony.  Will others look forward to hearing it?.....if you are willing to give me a good rehearsal of the symphony apart from the final rehearsal, all will go well.

The concert took place in London on May 19th, 1886 at St. James Hall, with the Prince and Princess of Wales in attendance.  Saint-Saëns performed the Beethoven 4th Piano Concerto with Sir Arthur Sullivan conducting and took the podium himself for the world premiere of his new symphony.  Arthur Hervey, the Irish composer in his 1921 biography of Saint-Saëns describes the symphony as one of the most remarkable symphonies of modern times. Later the composer himself said of the work, I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again.

The Symphony was revolutionary and very French.  It would seem the ghosts of Hector Berlioz and his friend Franz Liszt, the posthumous dedicatee, were riding on his shoulder as he composed.  The symphony in 2 movements, rather than three and in four parts makes the novel use of 2 pianos and an organ.  Though it has been named “The Organ” due to those giant chords in the entrance of the fourth part in the second movement, the instrument is in fact part of the ensemble.  The symphony after the first performance took off, first in Aix-la-Chapelle in August of 1886, the Paris premiere occurred with conductor Jules Garcin leading the Concerts du Conservatoire de Paris on January 9th and 16th, 1887.  The pianist Marie Jaëll, a friend of the composer, wrote to him after one of those January performances, Mon maître, I came out of the Conservatoire bursting with raucous, wild cries.  Brünnehilde had awakened so frighteningly that I thought I would die.  The dedicatee of our score, Ambroise Thomas, then Director of the Conservatoire so impressed with the work, made a big push for the work and showed up in person to tell the Société de Concerts du Conservatoire, It is powerful and exceptionally noteworthy, and given the invasion of German music, it would be well to offer another performance of this work that so honors the French School. (Thomas, the composer of the operas “Mignon” and “Hamlet” among others was perhaps the most powerful musician in France at that time.)  A third performance, March 13, 1887 was scheduled on Thomas’s word and was opened to the public as opposed to season ticket holders.  Theodore Thomas, the Music Director of the New York Philharmonic in 1887 led the American premiere of the Symphony on February 19, 1887 at the new Metropolitan Opera House, after a performance of the Beethoven 4th Symphony and the Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto.  Interestingly, Édouard Colonne conducted the work in 1888 with his Colonne Orchestra and organist Alexandre Guilmant participating.  The only other autographed example we could find of this same first edition score is dedicated to Guilmant and is part of the Morgan Library music collection.

Saint-Saëns 3rd Symphony “The Organ” became part of the Romantic repertory immediately after the first performance. Despite the fact that he has several “hits” which are also part of the repertory, the opera “Samson et Dalila”, the mixed work “Carnival of the Animals”, the solo piano and orchestral “Danse Macabre”, Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso for Violin and Orchestra and his 1st Cello Concerto, the 3rd Symphony occupies a special place in the regularly performed repertory of orchestral works.  For 135 years, it has become a vehicle for famous organists to perform and later to record.  I relistened to numerous performances of the work and for one reason or another, I keep going back to the Philadelphia Orchestra recording led by Eugene Ormandy with E. Power Biggs as organist on Columbia Records.  Between the performance of the orchestra and the beauty of the organ’s sound with his stop selection along with Biggs  performance, it rates at the very top of the recorded performances of the Symphony.

We have exhaustively searched the auction records for the past 30 years and have not found another example of this first edition score, autographed by the composer, or unsigned for that matter.  The fact that the dedicatee, Ambroise Thomas, the first supporter of the symphony at the time the work was written, makes it all the more important and historical.

A note on condition: wear to the top and bottom of the spine, as well as scrapes on the Moroccan corners.  Partial separation between the boards and the frontispiece.  The score itself is remarkably fine.

All first person quotations utilized in this description were contained in the new book on Saint-Saëns, Camille Saint-Saëns and His World, ed. Jann Pasler, Princeton University Press, 2021.

Sabrina Teller Ratner’s 2002, Camille Saint-Saëns, 1835-1921, A Thematic Catalog of his Complete Works, Volume I The Instrumental Works, Oxford University Press, is the most authoritative, albeit expensive listing of the composer’s works.

CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS - COMPOSER

EXCELLENT CONDITION