Author Topic: Camille Saint-SaŽns  (Read 31442 times)

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Offline BachQ

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Camille Saint-SaŽns
« on: April 12, 2007, 05:11:55 AM »
Camille Saint-SaŽns (1835-1921) was a remarkable composer.  Among his credits:

1. Saint-Saens has been described as the ďFrench MendelssohnĒ
2. Franz Liszt regarded Saint-Saens as the greatest organist in the world.
3. Saint-Saens was an acclaimed virtuoso pianist.
4. Highly precocious, Saint-Saens composed his first piece at age 3.
5. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he was regarded in the US and UK as Franceís greatest living composer.
6. Saint-Saens wrote outstanding music in virtually every genre, including:

-sonatas for violin & piano and cello & piano
-chamber - trios for piano
-chamber - other (incl quartets, quintets, septets)
-vocal and choral (including a Mass and a Requiem)
-concerti (5 for piano, 3 for violin, and 2 for cello)
-symphonies (3 in all, including his ďOrgan SymphonyĒ)
-symphonic poems
-operas (13 in all, including ďSamson et DalilaĒ)
-misc (ďDanse MacabreĒ, ď Le Rouet d'OmphaleĒ and ďCarnival of the AnimalsĒ)



Saint-SaŽns was a brilliant orchestrator and pianist, and he wrote many masterpieces that are standards in the repertoire, including his piano concerti numbers 2, 4, and 5; his ďOrgan Symphony,Ē his ďDanse Macabre,Ē his ďMesse de RequiemĒ, his piano trios, and other stuff. 

Marvelous, delightful stuff.  8)
« Last Edit: April 23, 2007, 12:01:27 PM by D Minor »

Offline BachQ

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Re: The Saint-SaŽns Sanctuary
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2007, 05:14:12 AM »
From Hector

***  Saint-SaŽns, apparently, performed all of the Beethoven piano sonatas in one session and from memory and pre-teen.

He was the first French composer to write a piano concerto.

He was advised not to publish 'Carnival of the Animals' because it would destroy his reputation as a serious composer!

I think that he has greater depth than he is usually given credit for because there is a general lightness of touch and easy melodic facility. I think that he was an optimist and few of his works end on a tragic note. Even 'Samson and Delilah' has a spritely ending, rightly so, as Samson gains his revenge!

All but a couple of his operas were failures.

Personally, I find a lot to like in his music. He who is not swayed by the slow movement of the 1st 'cello concerto must have a heart of stone!

I think that he probably queered his status by living too long. His music was considered dated and conservative by the time of his death and he had become very conservative in his views. At the outset of his composing career he was seen as avant-garde (yes, I know, does the same fate await Boulez, I wonder?).

Recommendations are easy: the concertante works, tone poems, symphonies, etc

Offline BachQ

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Re: The Saint-SaŽns Sanctuary
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2007, 05:15:54 AM »
From npwilkinson

Translated from a French web site:

Berlioz would say of him : ďHe is a staggering master pianistÖ and one of the greatest musicians of our time.Ē Liszt, Wagner, Berlioz and Bizet were among his admirers. He would have Faurť, Messager and Gigout as pupils, receive many distinctions and be elected to the Academy. He was prodigiously knowledgeable: ďSaint-SaŽns is the man who knows best the music of the whole world,Ē wrote Debussy, who was nevertheless not fond of the composer.

Apparently the first Paris performance of the Carnaval was put on for Liszt at Pauline Viardot's home.

Rummaging on the web, I also learned that Madame Saint SaŽns died in 1950 (!). And, continuing to rummage...

[Translated from French: read it with a Hercules Poirot accent] 'Is writing, a model of elegance and limpidity, 'is impeccable technique beneath the apparent facility and 'is extreme simplicity of means will always be appreciated by those who refuse to swoon before chaotic, uncontrolled lyricism or to excuse the worst compositional errors in the name of the sacred rights of passion.

[Translated from Italian:] Proust respected the musicianís technical prowess but when Stravinsky declared that Saint SaŽnsí Symphony in C Major was a masterpiece superior to all of Cťsar Franck he was bemused.

[Translated from American:] In some ways he was a solitary, even secretive individual, prone to "disappearing" for weeks. At the same time, he was a remarkable host who entertained lavishly at his Paris home, where his performances in drag (particularly his impersonation of Marguerite, the female soprano lead in Charles Gounod's opera Faust) were well-known among his circle.

Camille Saint-Saens was not without his critics. "If he'd been making shell-cases during the war," Maurice Ravel once remarked, "it might have been better for music."

karlhenning

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Re: The Saint-SaŽns Sanctuary
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2007, 05:38:24 AM »
[Translated from American:]

Nom d'un nom d'un nom!  :D

karlhenning

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Re: The Saint-SaŽns Sanctuary
« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2007, 05:41:01 AM »
Camille Saint-Saens was not without his critics. "If he'd been making shell-cases during the war," Maurice Ravel once remarked, "it might have been better for music."

This seems it might take a customary grain of salt.  It is a historical commonplace that the older compositional generation has difficulty taking to the directions some younger composers want to go in;  and the younger composers, who are already working somewhat in the dark as they find their own way, their own voice, necessarily find it a nuisance at best when the older composers are eager to draw a heavy curtain across their windows . . . .

lukeottevanger

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Re: The Saint-SaŽns Sanctuary
« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2007, 05:45:35 AM »
Camille Saint-SaŽns (1835-1921) was a remarkable composer.  Among his credits:

1. Saint-Saens has been described as the ďFrench MendelssohnĒ

This is a good thing, right? After all, I once knew the Georgian Mendelssohn....

Offline carlos

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Re: The Saint-SaŽns Sanctuary
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2007, 06:57:23 AM »
This is a good thing, right? After all, I once knew the Georgian Mendelssohn....

In the Third Reich they said "that Jew Mendelssohn"
Piantale a la leche hermano, que eso arruina el corazůn! (from a tango's letter)

Hector

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Re: The Saint-SaŽns Sanctuary
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2007, 07:06:04 AM »
Wasn't everybody who wrote music after Mendelssohn, but not before, considered Mendelssohnian?

S-S wrote Suite Algerienne because he often visited the country and not for his health, if you get my drift.

The orchestral suite was popular in France at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries because, it has been suggested, the French were scared of the symphony!

Think of them: Milhaud, Ravel, Debussy, Massenet...al wrote orchestral suites!

Offline BachQ

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Re: The Saint-SaŽns Sanctuary
« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2007, 07:10:43 AM »
Michel's enthusiastic embrace of Saint-SaŽns First Piano Concerto (I don't know it nearly as well as the beloved Second Piano Concerto):

What great stuff Saint-Saen's Piano Concerto No.1 in D Major is!

I am certain it is under-rated. To me, it sounds like a mixture of Tchaikovskian orchestral melodies, and Beethovian rhythm, structure and dynamics (one thinks of his 2nd and 3rd). The oscillation between moments of solo or moderately accompanied virtuosity and the orchestra, with abundant clarity and precision, remind me structurally of Beethoven's 3rd. In short, there is what there is in all Beethoven's piano concertos: a magnificent balance between piano and orchestra.

It also seems ludicrous to suggest, as some critics have, that Saint-Saens lacked profundity and so on. Not only, of course, is it completely idiotic to suggest that good music must have profundity, but I think it is completely false if one looks at the 2nd movement of the 1st Piano Concerto with its slow, tired negativity that echoes Beethoven - this time the 2nd movement of the 7th Sonata. Certainly, I think this slow movement is less brilliant than Beethoven's majestic subtly - some may even call it insincere - but the emotional depth is, I think, still there loud and clear.

Even taken as a whole, this D Major concerto somewhat mirrors Beethovenís 3rd (and arguably the 5th) as it has a very dominant theme in the first movement, outward looking and at times celebratory, followed by a far more insular and intimate second movement, ended by a real memorable and indulgent blast. I am sure I once read that Saint-Saens is sometimes compared to Beethoven, and this early PC certainly illustrates that argument well.

One other observation is the use of staccato in places in the final movement that I haven't previously noticed (repeated also in his PC2 first movement rather significantly). Saint-Saens injects a Prokofieven jovialness into this movement, but is then peculiarly - though interestingly - contrasted by an almost hideously dreamy and repetitive piano melody reminiscent of a later Rachmaninov (like the ghastly Rach 3!). But what this does show, I think, is that Saint-Saens was a marvellously talented composer; echoing the past whilst predating that which followed, and writing music of subtlely, depth and sophistication that as a compliment is so ofen denied. This first piano concerto, whatever is weaknesses, is a piece of music underappreciated by, it seems, a really great number of classical music "fans".

What do you think of this Piano Concerto, or his other piano concertos, or his other work in general?

karlhenning

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Re: The Saint-SaŽns Sanctuary
« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2007, 07:12:25 AM »
Wasn't everybody who wrote music after Mendelssohn, but not before, considered Mendelssohnian?

That was, until everyone became Elgarian  ;D

Offline carlos

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Re: The Saint-SaŽns Sanctuary
« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2007, 07:43:57 AM »
If I made you hear a certain cello sonata in B minor,
probably you'll say that you didnīt know that Mendelssohn
sonata. And the reason why is because it was written by
Borodin.
Piantale a la leche hermano, que eso arruina el corazůn! (from a tango's letter)

Offline quintett op.57

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Re: The Saint-SaŽns Sanctuary
« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2007, 07:45:53 AM »
I don't know exactly why, I don't need to listen to St-SaŽns very often.

This Introduction & Rondo capriccioso is a great work.

Don't know how to explain why I don't listen to it more often, I feel like it's almost too perfect.  :-\

One of the greatest concerto composer ever, anyway.
I'm enjoying his first cello concerto, inspired by Beethoven's VC

karlhenning

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Re: The Saint-SaŽns Sanctuary
« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2007, 07:49:55 AM »
Live performance here by the BSO sold me on the Organ Symphony;  and now I regularly go back to the Paray/Detroit reissue on Mercury Living Presence.

karlhenning

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Re: The Saint-SaŽns Sanctuary
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2007, 07:50:56 AM »
Camille Saint-SaŽns (1835-1921) was a remarkable composer.

BTW, mon vieux, thank you for getting the diacritical mark there in the inaugural post!  :D

Offline BachQ

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Re: Camille Saint-SaŽns
« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2007, 12:09:04 PM »
I'm itching to get this new hybrid superaudio CD (hybrid SACD); it's back-ordered @ Archiv but available @ Amazon.com.



In addition to the Organ Symphony, it includes:

Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani in G minor by Francis Poulenc
 
Performer:  Olivier Latry (Organ)
Conductor:  Christoph Eschenbach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra
Date of Recording: 05/2006
Venue:  Verizon Hall, Kimmel Ctr., Philadelphia

Toccata festiva for Organ and Orchestra, Op. 36 by Samuel Barber
 
Performer:  Olivier Latry (Organ)
Conductor:  Christoph Eschenbach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra
Date of Recording: 05/2006
Venue:  Verizon Hall, Kimmel Ctr., Philadelphia




 

 

Offline jwinter

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Re: Camille Saint-SaŽns
« Reply #15 on: April 23, 2007, 12:25:47 PM »
I came at the composer through Charles Munch's outstanding recording of the Organ Symphony, and then branched out into the piano concerti.  What marvelous works these are!  I have to confess that my initial expectations weren't too high, but these are indeed excellent works, as Michel pointed out long ago.

I recently picked up this set to fill in some of the blanks:



Very much glad I did!
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted.

-- William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Offline oyasumi

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Re: Camille Saint-SaŽns
« Reply #16 on: April 23, 2007, 04:26:12 PM »
So did he like little boys or not? Serious question.

Online Gurn Blanston

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Re: Camille Saint-SaŽns
« Reply #17 on: April 23, 2007, 04:36:35 PM »
So did he like little boys or not? Serious question.

It lacks relevance to his music.

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Offline oyasumi

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Re: Camille Saint-SaŽns
« Reply #18 on: April 23, 2007, 04:55:43 PM »
Someone should revoke the sunglasses smiley from your post. Nothing cool about a useless reply.

"This board is for discussing the life and works of particular composers."

My question pertains to his life. I don't want to start a seperate pedo topic just for this, but the veracity of it has been bothering me.

Online Gurn Blanston

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Re: Camille Saint-SaŽns
« Reply #19 on: April 23, 2007, 05:02:17 PM »
Someone should revoke the sunglasses smiley from your post. Nothing cool about a useless reply.

"This board is for discussing the life and works of particular composers."

My question pertains to his life. I don't want to start a seperate pedo topic just for this, but the veracity of it has been bothering me.

I that case, yes, he did. Now we can branch right out and explore the seamy side. ::)

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