Saint-Saëns today

Saint-Saëns Today’, Pre-Concert Panel sponsored by the Royal Philharmonic Society for Saint-Saëns Across Borders, an international conference held at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, 3-4 February 2022

In early February 2022 the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, collaborating with the Royal Musical Association, Cardiff University, the British Library and the Royal Philharmonic Society, organized Saint-Saëns Across Borders, an international conference marking the centenary of the death of the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921). One of three conferences in Europe to explore the composer’s life, work and reputation, it focused on his activities and connections outside France, notably in Britain where he was a regular visitor, the USA, and North Africa. Speakers drew on new archival materials from Dieppe and from locations in Britain.

To round off the celebrations, the RNCM Symphony Orchestra was joined by the organist Anna Lapwood, conductor Robin Wallington, and the Estonian conductor Anu Tali to perform works by Augusta Holmès, Maurice Ravel and Erkki-Sven Tüür, as well as Saint-Saëns’s ‘New Symphony, in C’ – as it was called at its première – now famous as the ‘Organ’ Symphony (1886).

Written to a commission from the London Philharmonic Society amid their drive to renovate their own membership, programming and performing standards, the symphony opens a fresh angle on Saint-Saëns’s legacy to Britain. In my role as Hon. Librarian of the Society, I joined the pre-concert panel to discuss the work’s origins, its position in Saint-Saëns’s output and its contribution to London orchestral culture in the late 19th century.

The RPS Chief Executive, James Murphy, chaired the discussion, encouraging a relaxed conversation among the four participants: the organist Anna Lapwood, the composer David Horne, the RNCM postgraduate pianist Michael Shiu, and myself, before a roomful of keen conferees and concert-goers.

The filmed conversation is available to RPS members here.

‘Leanne’s contributions were absolutely wonderful – it was a lovely evening!’ Adam Swayne, Deputy Head of Keyboard Studies, Royal Northern College of Music

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