Classical Music | Music for Flute

Camille Saint-Saëns

Havanaise, Op. 83  Play

Kristin Paxinos Flute

Recorded on 01/09/2007, uploaded on 01/14/2009

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

Like his compatriots Bizet and Lalo, Camille Saint-Saëns held a certain fascination for Spanish music. His masterful showpiece, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, stands alongside such splendid evocations of the style as Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole or the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen. A somewhat lesser work by Saint-Saëns, but no less entrancing, is the Havanaise, op. 83 composed in 1887. Saint-Saëns conceived the work during his concert tour with the violinist Raphael Diaz Albertini during 1885, to whom he also dedicated the work when it was published in Paris three years later. Originally written for violin and piano, Saint-Saëns also produced an orchestral accompaniment shortly after completing the piece. 

As the title suggests, Saint-Saëns based his piece on the rhythms of the habañera, a dance imported via Spanish sailors from Cuba and based on African rhythms. The dance itself enjoyed its heyday in the salons of England and France and achieved an artistic pinnacle at the hands of such composers as Bizet, Saint-Saëns, Massenet and Ravel. Saint-Saëns begins his Havanaise with a variant of the habañera rhythm (three triplets followed by two eights as opposed to the usual dotted-eighth rhythm) which leads into the work’s principal theme. A coaxing melody outlining the tonic triad of E major and venturing furtively into the parallel minor, it is introduced first by the soloist underpinned by the stately, and proper, habañera rhythm. Two episodes separate the statements of the dance refrain, each of a more Romantic cut. The first, retraining the key of E major, shifts to a faster tempo and becomes enlivened, in both melody and accompaniment, with vigorous sixteenth notes. The second modulates into the key of D major, a key change foreshadowed by the first theme. Its melody is lyrical, marked molto espressivo, but is nonetheless accompanied by the persistent rhythm of the habañera on a dominant pedal. In its approach to the end, the music becomes livelier, as if summoning the energy with which to form a spectacular conclusion, yet ultimately subsides into a soft and evocative ending, with the soloist rising up to a high, sustained harmonic while the accompaniment gives a final statement of the habañera rhythm.      Joseph DuBose


Havanaise, Op. 83                 Camille Saint-Saëns

Camille Saint-Saëns' Havanaise in E Major (1887) reflects the late nineteenth century vogue for exoticism, and the French fascination with Spanish music. Sain-Saëns' Havanaise (habanera in Spanish) is no less seductive than the one Bizet introduced to Paris a decade earlier. However, this piece covers a wider emotional spectrum and, as it explodes with fiery passion, becomes a virtuoso showpiece. This piece, originally written for violin, has been transcribed for flute by today's performer.     Kristin Paxinos