Saint-Saens, Camille (10/09/1835 - 12/16/1921)

Once described as the French Mendelssohn, Camille Saint-Saëns was talented and precocious as a child, with interests by no means confined to music. He made an early impression as a pianist. Following established French tradition, he was for nearly 20 years organist at the Madeleine in Paris and taught briefly at the École Niedermeyer, where he befriended his pupil Gabriel Fauré. He was a co-founder of the important Société Nationale de Musique with the patriotic aim of promoting contemporary French music in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-01, in which he had served in the Garde Nationale de la Seine. Prolific and versatile as a composer, he contributed to most genres of music, but by the time of his death in 1921 his popularity in France had diminished considerably, as fashions in music had changed.

Operas

The best known of the 13 operas completed by Saint-Saëns is Samson et Dalila, a romantic treatment of the biblical story. His pastiche dances from the unhistorical opera Henry VIII may also be heard in concert performance.

Vocal and Choral Music

Saint-Saëns wrote a number of sacred and secular choral works and made a considerable contribution to the body of French solo song.

Orchestral Music

The ‘Organ’ Symphony—the third of the three numbered symphonies by Saint-Saëns, so named from the use of the instrument in the work—is the best known. Other popular orchestral works include Le Rouet d’Omphale (‘Omphale’s Wheel’) and Danse macabre.

Saint-Saëns, a fine pianist himself, wrote five piano concertos, three violin concertos and two cello concertos. Both the Introduction and Rondo capriccioso and Havanaise are familiar in the repertoire for violin and orchestra.

Chamber Music

Saint-Saëns was equally prolific in his provision of chamber music, with a series of duo sonatas, including two violin sonatas, two cello sonatas and a variety of other pieces. The Carnival of the Animals, often heard in more expanded form, was originally a private joke for the enjoyment of his friends.

Organ and Piano Music

Saint-Saëns, distinguished as a pianist and organist, wrote for both instruments, as well as for the harmonium. His organ music includes the Fantaisie in E flat, his first such composition and among the most popular with recitalists.

Box Set Release Catalogue Number
25th Anniversary Boxed Sets - Romantic Symphonies Naxos 8.501057
25th Anniversary Boxed Sets - Violin Concertos Naxos 8.501058
CHILDREN’S CLASSICS - CD Story Box Naxos 8.507007
Classic Bouquet Naxos 8.505080
Classical Moments 1-3 Naxos 8.506004
Die Orgel: Konigin Naxos 8.503057
Die schöensten Cellokonzerte Naxos 8.503047
Enjoy the Classics (Best of Naxos 1-4) Naxos 8.504003
MOZART Die Violinkonzerte Naxos 8.503044
MOZART Vol 2 - Violin Concertos Naxos 8.503166
Romantic Piano Favourites Vol 1 Naxos 8.505028
Romantic Piano Favourites Vol 2 Naxos 8.505029

Discography

Ballet
Chamber Music
C49364
SPRING PARADE
Children's Classics
Choral - Sacred
Choral - Secular
BIS-CD-1233
Diamonds
Concertos
8.558107-10
A TO Z OF PIANISTS
Instrumental
8.550791
ORGAN MEDITATION
Nostalgia
Opera
Orchestral
8.550088
FRENCH FESTIVAL
8.551094
LA CELLISSIMA
8.550370
Majestic Marches
Vocal
Wind Ensemble/Band Music
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