Saint Saens wrote in his memoirs that he would never be able to achieve again what he poured out in this symphony. He gave his everything to this symphony. It is one of his famous works. It was his final hand at the symphony. It turned out spectacular. The themes stir your soul. They are majestic. Each movement is a gem. In the finale, the pipe organ has the biggest say. Saint Saens completed this symphony in 1886. He dedicated it to Franz Liszt. Liszt was the first to integrate the pipe organ into his symphonic poems with his `Hunnenschlacht'. Liszt began his symphonic poem also with the Gregorian Dies Irae sequence.
The harmonic structure of Saint Saens' Organ Symphony is unique as he prefers semi-tonal relationships. He supplements the conventional orchestral supports with the bass clarinet and the contrabassoon. There is an extensive and detailed percussion section too with four hands on the piano and the pipe organ. The symphony has a structural pattern of two plus two movements. The Allegro and Adagio on one side and the Scherzo and the Finale on the other as they are played without a break in two self-contained entities. The structure is held in unison by the Gregorian Dies Irae which transforms many times during the course of the work before the radiant conclusion in C Major. The symphony's tonal home is C Minor.
The definitive reading of this symphony is done by the Berlin Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta followed by this attached interpretation by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.