(1835-1921). French composer, organist, and pianist.
The musical gifts of Camille Saint-Saens were obvious from an early age. In an era when French audiences preferred opera to concert music, he wrote several concertos for violin, cello, and 5 important piano concertos. He also composed a wide range of chamber music.
When Saint-Saens did turn to his attention to opera, his "Samson and Dalila" enjoyed considerable success.
His most important instrumental works include the Symphony no 3 in C minor "Organ", the Piano Concert no 2 in G minor, and his delightful "Carnival of the Animals".
Camille Saint-Saens (Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns) was a French composer, pianist, organist, and conductor, among other things. He was born on October 9, 1835. Due to his phenomenal talent, displayed from a very early age (three), he has been called the French Mendelssohn. He entered the Conservatoire in 1848 (at age 13) after having taken private lessons from tutors. His skill as an organist and pianist prompted important musicians to laud him – including Liszt, Gounod, Rossini, Berlioz, and Wagner. Unlike George Bizet, he lived more than long enough to reap the artistic and economic rewards for his labors. He was a polymath, being keenly interested and excelling in other areas of study besides music – astronomy, geology, botany, mathematics, Roman architecture, Latin, poetry, and playwriting. Saint-Saens was also a tireless world traveler. At age ten, he gave one of his first concerts, playing Beethoven’s third piano concerto, among other works. He actually only held two professional posts in his life – that of organist at the Madeleine Church in Paris (1857-1875) and teacher at the Niedermeyer School (1861-1865.) He concertized extensively as well. It has been said that he was a strict classicist though a few of his compositions belie the fact. It has also been said that he was a superb interpreter of Mozart’s music. He himself said that he had a facility for producing music such as an apple tree produces apples and that he lived in music the way a fish lives in water. One of his earlier (and very popular) compositions (composed in 17 days) is the second piano concerto (dating from 1868 – by this time, he had already been composing for nearly thirty years and had another fifty three years yet to go.) His first symphony dates from 1852 – written at age 16. At age forty, he fell in love with a nineteen year old girl whom he married. The marriage produced two children (both of whom died very young and within weeks of each other) but the marriage did not last, though the couple never divorced. Due to his steadfastly holding on to tradition, his music fell a little out of favor after 1890. Modernism was beginning to take root – Stravinsky, Strauss, Ravel, Debussy, and Mahler (among others) were bringing music into the Twentieth Century. Nonetheless, his popularity as a concert pianist never failed him. As late as 1915, he toured the U.S. to great acclaim. He composed over three hundred works, including 13 operas, five piano concertos, three violin concertos, two cello concertos, four tone poems, oratorios, chamber music, and innumerable miscellaneous works. He was also the first major composer to score film music. Today, Saint-Saens is remembered for his opera Samson and Delilah, his second, fourth, and fifth piano concertos, his third violin concerto, his first cello concerto, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso for violin, Havanaise for violin, his third symphony, Danse Macabre, and the Carnival of the Animals. Saint-Saens died on December 16, 1921.
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