Camille Saint-Saëns, classical music composer

Camille Saint-Saëns

Biography

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

Saint-Saëns was born in Paris, France on 9 October 1835. At 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. Saint-Saëns's precociousness was not limited to music. He learned to read and write by age three, and had some mastery of Latin by the age of seven. 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), and various pieces by Handel, Kalkbrenner, Hummel, and Bach. As an encore, Saint-Saëns offered to play any of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas from memory. Word of this incredible concert spread across Europe, and as far as the United States with an article in a Boston newspaper.

He then studied composition under Fromental Halévy at the Conservatoire de Paris. 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, Il sait tout, mais il manque d'inexpérience ("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.

From 1861 to 1865, Saint-Saëns held his only teaching position as professor of piano at the École Niedermeyer, where he raised eyebrows by including contemporary music—Liszt, Gounod, Schumann, Berlioz, and Wagner—along with the school's otherwise conservative curriculum of Bach and Mozart. His most successful students at the Niedermeyer were André Messager and Gabriel Fauré, who was Saint-Saëns's favourite pupil and soon his closest friend.

In 1870, the Franco-Prussian War, despite being over in barely six months, left an indelible mark on the composer. He was relieved from fighting duty as one of the favourites of a relative of emperor Napoleon III, but fled nonetheless to London for several months when the Paris Commune broke out in the besieged Paris of winter 1871, his fame and societal status posing a threat to his survival. In the same year, he co-founded with Romain Bussine the Société Nationale de Musique in order to promote a new and specifically French music. After the fall of the Paris Commune, the Society premiered works by members such as Fauré, César Franck, Édouard Lalo, and Saint-Saëns himself, who served as the society's co-president. In this way, Saint-Saëns became a powerful figure in shaping the future of French music.

In 1875, nearing forty, Saint-Saëns married Marie Laure Emile Truffot, who was just 19. They had two sons, both of whom died in 1878, within six weeks of each other, one from an illness, the other upon falling out of a fourth-story window. For the latter death Saint-Saëns blamed his wife, and when they went on vacation together in 1881 he simply disappeared one day. A separation order was enacted, but they never divorced.

In 1886 Saint-Saëns debuted two of his most renowned compositions: The Carnival of the Animals and Symphony No. 3, dedicated to Franz Liszt, who died that year. That same year, however, Vincent d'Indy and his allies had Saint-Saëns removed from the Société Nationale de Musique. Two years later, Saint-Saëns's mother died, driving the mourning composer away from France to the Canary Islands under the alias "Sannois". Over the next several years he travelled around the world, visiting exotic locations in Europe, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America. Saint-Saëns chronicled his travels in many popular books using his nom de plume, Sannois.

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 (L'assassinat du duc de Guise), directed by Charles Le Bargy and André Calmettes, adapted by Henri Lavedan, featuring actors of the Comédie Française. It was 18 minutes long, a considerable run time for the day.

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.

Composer Title Date Action
Camille Saint-Saëns Havanaise, Op. 83 01/14/2009 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28 01/14/2009 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28 07/21/2011 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28 04/06/2010 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28 01/09/2009 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 in g minor, Op. 22 05/21/2009 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals The Swan 05/18/2011 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals The Swan 08/17/2010 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns The Swan 05/07/2009 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns The Swan 09/28/2010 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto no.2 op.119. 1.mv.Allegro moderato e maestoso,Andante sostenuto 04/11/2011 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto no.2.op.119. 2.mv.Allegro non troppo 04/11/2011 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns From "Samson and Delilah": Mon Coeur s'ouvre à ta voix 03/24/2012 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Allegretto Moderato, from Sonata No. 1 in d minor for Violin and Piano, Op. 75 02/06/2012 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Sonata No. 1 in d minor for Violin and Piano, Op. 75 01/23/2009 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Sonata No. 1 in d minor for Violin and Piano, Op. 75 03/01/2009 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Sonata No. 1 in d minor for Violin and Piano, Op. 75 01/22/2009 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Sonata No. 1 in d minor for Violin and Piano, Op. 75 01/23/2012 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns "Printemps qui commence" From "Samson and Delilah" 02/04/2012 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Sonata No. 1 in d minor for Violin and Piano, Op. 75 11/29/2012 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Concerto for Cello and Orchestra Nr.2. 05/06/2013 Play
Camille Saint-Saëns The Swan 06/07/2013 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28 10/14/2013 Play Add to playlist
Camille Saint-Saëns Sonata for Bassoon, Allegro Moderato, played on Bass Clarinet 01/02/2014 Play Add to playlist