Camille de Saint Saëns Saint Saëns was one of the greatest French composers of the nineteenth century. He wrote in virtually all genres , including opera, symphonies, concertos, songs, sacred and secular choral music, solo piano, and chamber music. He was also a gifted pianist and organist , as well as a writer of criticism, poetry, essays, and plays. Of his concerts and symphonies, in which he adapted the virtuosity of Franz Liszt’s style to French traditions of harmony and form. Saint-Saëns the composer was widely regarded by his contemporaries and some later critics as writing music that is elegant and technically flawless. His works have been called logical and clean, polished, professional, and never excessive. His concertos and many of his chamber music works are both technically difficult and transparent, requiring the skills of a virtuoso. He is remembered for his Symphony No. 3 for Organ , the Symphonic Poem Danse Macabre, the Opera Samson et Dalila and probably his most widely performed work, The Carnival of The Animals .
Biography Charles Camille Saint Saëns was born in Paris on October 9, 1835. His father was a government clerk, died three months after his birth. His mother, Clémence, sought the assistance of her aunt, Charlotte Masson, who moved in. Masson introduced Saint-Saëns to the piano, and began giving him lessons on the instrument After having as a child taken lessons on the piano and learned the elements of composition, He entered the Paris Conservatoire in the organ class, then presided over by Eugène Benoist , obtaining the second prize in 1849, and the first two years later. For a short time he studied composition under Fromental Halévy. Saint-Saëns worked tirelessly and in 1853, when he was only 18 years old, he was appointed organist at the Church of St. Mary. From 1861 to 1877 was organist at the Madeleine , in succession to Lefébre-Wély. An overture entitled "Spartacus", which has remained unpublished, was crowned at a competition instituted in 1863 by the Société Sainte Cécile of Bordeaux.
The greatest triumph of his early career was attained in 1867, when He won the prize of the International Exhibition , it was unanimously awarded to him for his cantata "Les Noces de Prométhée“. This competition included the participation of over two hundred musicians. Though be had acquired a great name as a pianist, and had made successful concert tours through Europe, He had not succeeded in reaching the ears of the larger public by the production of an opera, which in France at that time was more important than anything else. During the tragic events of 1870 of the Franco-Prussian war, Saint-Saëns did his duty as a patriot by serving in the National Guard and after that the opportunity at last offered itself, and a one-act opera from his pen, La Princesse jaune , with words by Louis Gallet, was produced at the Opéra Comique with moderate success on June 12, 1872. Le Timbre d'argent , a four-act opera performed at the Théâtre Lyrique in 1877, was scarcely more successful. In the meanwhile his symphonic poems "Le Rouet d'Omphale", "Danse Macabre", "Phaéton" and "La Jeunesse d'Hercule" obtained for him a worldwide celebrity. Final - Carnival of the animals
At last, through the influence of Franz Liszt, his Biblical opera Samson et Dalila was brought out at Weimar in 1877. This work, generally accepted as his operatic masterpiece , had been begun as far back as 1869, and an act had been heard at one of Colonne's concerts in 1875. Notwithstanding its great success at Weimar, its first performance on French soil took place at Rouen in 1890. The following year it was given in Paris at the Eden Theatre, and finally in 1892 was produced at the Grand Opéra , where it has remained one of the most attractive works of the repertoire. Its Biblical subject stood in the way of its being performed on the London stage until 1909, when it was given at Covent Garden with great success. None of his works is better calculated to exemplify the dual tendencies Of his style. The first act, with its somewhat formal choruses is treated rather in the manner of an oratorio. The more dramatic portions of the opera show some influence by Meyerbeer, Saint Saëns divided his work into scenes , thus avoiding the old-fashioned denominations of "air", "duet", "trio", etc.
After the production of Samson et Dalila Saint-Saëns stood at the parting of the ways , looked at askance by the reactionary section of the French musicians and suspected of harboring subversive Wagnerian ideas, but ready to be welcomed by the progressive party. Both sides were doomed to disappointment, for in his subsequent operas Saint-Saëns attempted to effect a compromise between the older and the newer forms of opera. He had already entertained the idea of utilizing the history of France for operatic purposes. The first and only result of this project has been Élienne Marcel , an opera produced at Lyons in 1879. Forsaking the history of France he now composed his opera Henry VIII , produced at the Paris Grand Opéra in 1883. The librettists had concocted a piece that was sufficiently well knit and abounded in dramatic contrasts. In 1886 Saint-Saëns debuted two of his most renowned compositions: The Carnival of the Animals and Symphony No. 3 . Symphony No. 3 in C minor Op. 78
Henry VIII , was given at Covent Garden in 1898 and occupies an honorable place among the composer's works. Proserpine , a lyrical drama produced at the Paris Opéra Comique in 1887, achieved a succès d'estime . A not much better fate befell Ascanio , an opera founded on Paul Meurice's drama Benvenulo Cellini , and brought out at the Grand Opéra in 1890. Phryné , a two-act trifle of a light description, produced at the Opéra Comique in 1893, had a very good success. In 1895 Frédégonde , an opera begun by Ernest Guiraud and completed by Saint-Saëns, was produced in Paris. The "lyrical drama " Les Barbares ” given at the Grand Opéra in 1901, was received with marked favor. 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 1915, Saint-Saëns traveled to San Francisco, California and guest conducted the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra during the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, one of two world's fairs celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal. Saint-Saëns continued to write on musical, scientific and historical topics , travelling frequently before spending his last years in Algiers, Algeria. In recognition of his accomplishments, the government of France awarded him the Légion d'honneur. Saint-Saëns died of pneumonia on 16 December 1921 in Algiers. His body was repatriated to Paris, honoured by state funeral at La Madeleine, and buried at Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris.
Main Works Operas Le timbre d’argent (completed in 1865, premiered in 1877) La princesse jaune , Op. 30 (1872) Samson et Dalila , Op. 47 (1877) Étienne Marcel (1879) Henry VIII (1883) Proserpine (1887) Ascanio (1890) Phryné (1893) Frédégonde (1895) Les barbares (1901) Hélène (1904) L'ancêtre (1906) Déjanire (1911) Bacchanale – Samson et Dalila
Organ Works Fantaisie No. 1 Fantaisie No. 2, Op. 101 Fantaisie No. 3, Op. 157 Trois rhapsodies sur des cantiques Bretons , Op. 7 Bénédiction nuptiale , Op. 9 Élévation ou communion , Op. 13 Three Preludes and Fugues, Op. 99 Three Preludes and Fugues, Op. 109 Marche religieuse , Op. 107 Seven improvisations, Op. 150 Cyprès et lauriers , Op. 156 (the second part with orchestra) Prière , Op. 158 (with violin) La prédication aux oiseaux (transcription of Liszt's First St. Francis Legend, S.175 No.1)
Symphonies Symphony in A major Symphony No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 2 Symphony No. 2 in A minor, Op. 55 Symphony No. 3 in C minor (Organ Symphony), Op. 78 Symphony in F major ("Urbs Roma") Suite “ Le carnaval des animaux” (1886) Symphonic poems Le rouet d'Omphale , Op. 31 Phaéton , Op. 39 Danse macabre , Op. 40 La jeunesse d'Hercule , Op. 50 Violin and orchestra Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 20 Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 58 Violin Concerto No. 3, Op. 61 Introduction and Rondo capriccioso , Op. 28 Romance, Op. 48 Caprice andalous , Op. 122 Havanaise , Op. 83
Piano and orchestra Piano Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 17 Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22 Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 29 Piano Concerto No. 4 in C minor, Op. 44 Piano Concerto No. 5 in F major, Op. 103 Allegro appassionato , Op. 70 Rhapsodie d'Auvergne , Op. 73 Wedding Cake , caprice-valse, Op. 76 Africa , Op. 89 Cello and orchestra Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 33 Cello Concerto No. 2, Op. 119 Suite Op. 16bis, for Cello and Orchestra Film score The Assassination of the Duke of Guise , Op. 128 (produced Paris, Salle Charras, 16 November 1908)
E N D AVM 300110 REFERENCES: http://www.nndb.com/people/ http://en.wikipedia.org/