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Camille Saint-Saëns

From Wind Repertory Project
Camille Saint-Saëns

Biography

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (9 October 1835, Paris – 16 December 1921, Algiers) was a French composer, organist, conductor, and pianist of the Romantic era. He is known especially for The Carnival of the Animals, Danse Macabre, the opera Samson and Delilah, Piano Concerto No. 2, Cello Concerto No. 1, Havanaise, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and his Symphony No. 3 (Organ Symphony).

His aunt introduced Saint-Saëns to the piano, and began giving him lessons. At about this time, age two, Saint-Saëns was found to possess perfect pitch. His first composition, a little piece for the piano dated 22 March 1839, is now kept in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. His first public concert appearance occurred when he was five years old, when he accompanied a Beethoven violin sonata. He went on to begin in-depth study of the full score of Don Giovanni. In 1842, Saint-Saëns began piano lessons with Camille-Marie Stamaty, a pupil of Friedrich Kalkbrenner, who had his students play the piano while resting their forearms on a bar situated in front of the keyboard, so that all the pianist's power came from the hands and fingers but not the arms. At ten years of age, Saint-Saëns gave his debut public recital at the Salle Pleyel, with a performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 15 in B-flat major (K. 450).

In the late 1840s, Saint-Saëns entered the Conservatoire de Paris, where he studied organ and composition, the latter under Fromental Halévy. Saint-Saëns won many top prizes and gained a reputation that resulted in his introduction to Franz Liszt, who would become one of his closest friends. At the age of sixteen, Saint-Saëns wrote his first symphony; his second, published as Symphony No. 1 in E-flat major, was performed in 1853 to the astonishment of many critics and fellow composers. Hector Berlioz, who also became a good friend, famously remarked, "He knows everything, but lacks inexperience."

For income, Saint-Saëns played the organ at various churches in Paris, with his first appointment being at the Saint-Merri in the Beaubourg area.[1] In 1857, he replaced Lefébure-Wely at the eminent position of organist at the Église de la Madeleine, which he kept until 1877. His weekly improvisations stunned the Parisian public and earned Liszt's 1866 observation that Saint-Saëns was the greatest organist in the world. He also composed a famous piece called Danse Macabre at this time.

Saint-Saëns was a multi-faceted intellectual. From an early age, he studied geology, archaeology, botany, and lepidoptery. He was an expert at mathematics. Later, in addition to composing, performing, and writing musical criticism, he held discussions with Europe's finest scientists and wrote scholarly articles on acoustics, occult sciences, Roman theatre decoration, and ancient instruments. He wrote a philosophical work, Problèmes et mystères, which spoke of science and art replacing religion; Saint-Saëns's pessimistic and atheistic ideas foreshadowed Existentialism. In 1908, he had the distinction of being the first celebrated composer to write a musical score to a motion picture, The Assassination of the Duke of Guise.

In addition to Saint-Saëns' orchestral works, which include several popular concerti, he composed 13 operas and numerous choral works. Among his compositions are three pieces for band plus Hail California, which was written for combined band, symphony orchestra and organ. This was a commemorative piece composed for the Panama-Pacific Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915.

The composer traveled widely during his later years and spent the last several years of his life in Algiers.


Works for Winds


References

  • Camille Saint-Saens, Wikipedia
  • Rehrig, William H. (2005). The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music: Complete CD ROM Edition. np: The Robert Hoe Foundation.