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Cyprès et Lauriers, Op. 156 for Organ and Orchestra was written by Camille Saint-Saëns in 1919, two years before the composer's death.

Lasting not quite twenty minutes, the piece is program music divided into two parts, each corresponding to a section of the title. The first part, which corresponds to 'cyprès' (literally 'cypress') is a long, mournful adagio for organ solo in the manner of a dirge, reminiscent of the weeping that a cypress is often seen to embody. Once the orchestra makes its entrance, a much more uplifting and sprightly interplay between the organ and orchestra takes place, written in the likes of a militaristic march (hence the 'lauriers', or laurels) and making liberal use of the brass and unusually large percussion band (the latter of which goes so far as to employ a snare drum).

One of Saint-Saëns' more (though by no means only) unusual compositions, this piece has not secured the same status in the classical canon as his more famous Third Symphony, written for similar ensemble thirty-one years earlier. This might be attributed to the fact that Cyprès et Lauriers is of a much shorter duration and markedly less profound and sweeping nature than its predecessor. The instrumentation itself bears note: whereas the Third Symphony was written with the organ incorporated as a member of the orchestral ensemble, something that would bear repetition (most famously in Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra), Cyprès et Lauriers is structured in traditional concerto form with the organ as soloist.



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