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Camille Saint-Saëns

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Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) was a remarkable composer.  Among his credits:

1. Saint-Saens has been described as the “French Mendelssohn”
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 France’s 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 “Organ Symphony”)
-symphonic poems
-operas (13 in all, including “Samson et Dalila”)
-misc (“Danse Macabre”, “ Le Rouet d'Omphale” and “Carnival of the Animals”)

Saint-Saëns 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 “Organ Symphony,” his “Danse Macabre,” his “Messe de Requiem”, his piano trios, and other stuff. 

Marvelous, delightful stuff.  8)

From Hector

***  Saint-Saëns, 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

From npwilkinson

Translated from a French web site:

Berlioz would say of him : “He is a staggering master pianist… and one of the greatest musicians of our time.” Liszt, Wagner, Berlioz and Bizet were among his admirers. He would have Fauré, Messager and Gigout as pupils, receive many distinctions and be elected to the Academy. He was prodigiously knowledgeable: “Saint-Saëns is the man who knows best the music of the whole world,” 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 Saëns 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 musician’s technical prowess but when Stravinsky declared that Saint Saëns’ Symphony in C Major was a masterpiece superior to all of César 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."


--- Quote from: D Minor on April 12, 2007, 04:15:54 AM ---[Translated from American:]
--- End quote ---

Nom d'un nom d'un nom!  :D


--- Quote from: D Minor on April 12, 2007, 04:15:54 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."

--- End quote ---

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 . . . .


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