Personalities | Camille Saint-Saëns | Late Romantic | Classical
(Ka-mel’ San-San) 1835–1921
Saint-Saëns was the founder of the National Society for French Music (1871) and influenced the development of the French style through his immense output and through his pupil Fauré. His music epitomizes French qualities of formal elegance, clarity of texture and craftsmanship, all allied to techniques of Romanticism. He was a prodigy, beginning his studies aged 13 at the Paris Conservatoire. Saint-Saëns introduced Liszt’s symphonic poems to the French public and also composed the first French symphonic poems, of which Danse macabre (1884) is the most famous. Similarly, his five virtuoso piano concertos, the second of which is still frequently played, are the first French examples of their genre. Among his most significant works are the popular ‘Organ’ Symphony No. 3 (1886), which employs ‘thematic metamorphosis’, and Samson and Delilah (1877), the finest of his 13 operas. He also composed much chamber music including the entertaining Carnival of the Animals (1886), originally intended as a private joke, which has become one of the most universally enjoyed pieces of all time.
Carnival of the Animals, Septet, Michel Béroff, Jean-Philippe Collard, Maurice André, Michel Debost, French String Trio et al (EMI/Erato)
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