Camille and the Carnival of the Animals

Who was Camille? Find out if you haven’t had occasion to listen to The Carnival of the Animals as a young or veteran concert goer.

As a teaser, alongside is a mug shot of the composer – he’s no other than Saint-Saëns!

b. October 9, 1835
d. December 16, 1921

I fell for his music when back in India as a youngster I first heard The Swan, the penultimate section of the 14-section suite for two pianos and orchestra.

Many years later it was a dream come true, when as the General Manager of the Florida Philharmonic in Miami, USA, I programmed Le Carnaval des animaux at one of our ‘open-air’ concerts, which I organized especially to take place at the City Zoo. The weather cooperated fully and the audience adored it as being one of its best experiences. Indeed, if I may say so, it was un succès fou – a huge success! Listen now to a youthful orchestral ensemble (Symphony Orchestra of The Stanisław Moniuszko Music School in Wałbrzych, Poland, with Małgorzata Sapiecha conducting) performing the last two sections of The Carnival of the Animals on YouTube: The Swan and Finale.

Not long after, the Florida Philharmonic performed the composer’s  “Organ” Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78, for orchestra and organ at the Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale that was recorded for the sake of posterity with Diane Bish , the brilliant organist. Listen now on YouTube to the Finale, performed by Diane on the massive Möller 23,511 pipe organ with the West Point Military Band at the Academy Chapel in West Point, New York.

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (b. October 9, 1835 – d. December 16, 1921) was a French composer, organist, conductor and pianist of the Romantic era.

Saint-Saëns was a musical prodigy, making his concert debut at the age of ten. After studying at the Paris Conservatoire he followed a conventional career as a church organist. Twenty years later, he was a successful freelance pianist and composer, in demand in Europe and the Americas.

As a young man, Saint-Saëns was enthusiastic for the most modern music of the day, particularly that of Schumann, Liszt and Wagner, although his own compositions were generally within a conventional classical tradition. He was a scholar of musical history, and remained committed to the structures worked out by earlier French composers. This brought him into conflict in his later years with composers of the impressionist and 12-tone schools of music. Although there were neoclassical elements in his music, foreshadowing works by Stravinsky and  Les Six – Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc and Germaine Tailleferre  – he was often regarded as a reactionary in the decades around the time of his death.

Saint-Saëns held only one teaching post, at the École de Musique Classique et Religieuse in Paris, and remained there for less than five years. It was nevertheless important in the development of French music: his students included Gabrie Fauré, among whose own later pupils was Maurice Ravel. Both of them were strongly influenced by Saint-Saëns, whom they revered as a genius.

References: Wikipedia; Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewens

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