Recorded on 06/16/2004, uploaded on 05/07/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
In February 1886, Camille Saint-Saëns penned what would become one of his most famous compositions, Carnival of the Animals—a piece he admitted to his publisher was so much fun to write that he was neglecting work on his Third Symphony. The piece is scored for an unusual ensemble of instruments: two pianos, two violins, viola, cello, double bass, flute (and piccolo), clarinet, glass harmonica, and xylophone. Frequently, the glockenspiel is substituted for the rare glass harmonica. Less than half an hour in length, it comprises a total of fourteen movements, twelve of which are depictions of various animals, one a humorous, but good-natured, mockery of pianists’ arduous scale exercises, and a finale that quotes several of the previous movements. For the composer, Carnival of the Animals was a temporary respite from the task of serious composition and brief excursion into the popular vein of lighthearted trifles. Indeed, though he allowed several private performances of the work, Saint-Saëns purposefully withheld the work from publication until after his death, even going so far as to put it in his last will and testament, so as not to tarnish his image as a serious composer. Only on one instance did he relent: in 1887 he allowed an arrangement, prepared by his own hand, of the famous penultimate movement, The Swan, to be published. In accordance with Saint-Saëns wishes, the suite was published by Durand in 1922, following the composer’s death the previous year. That same year it also received its first public performance. It has since become one Saint-Saëns’s most enduring compositions. Most beloved among its fourteen movements is undoubtedly The Swan. Perhaps the most serious of them all, The Swan relies on a lyrical solo cello to capture the graceful movements of the eloquent creature as it travels placidly across the water. Supporting the cello’s flowing melody is a rippling accompaniment of broken chords from the pianos. Joseph DuBose
One of Saint-Saëns's most famous works was "Carnival of the Animals" (1886), a classic example of program music - music that attempts to describe or depict a visual image or a non-musical idea. During the Romantic period of the 19th century, composers frequently indicated the "program" with use of a suggestive title, often choosing images from nature as their subjects. These images, such as birds or the wind, were illustrated by imitating their sound or motion through various compositional techniques. The Swan is a poetic melody, which evokes a characteristic portrait of the elegant white bird. O. Murphy
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
definitely beautiful, but it's missing the groaning of the violin, which is what makes the death so dramatic--seeing and hearing the groans at the same time.
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