"The Carnival of the Animals" is a musical suite of
fourteen movements by the French Romantic composer
It was composed in February 1886 while Saint-SaŽns was
vacationing in a small Austrian village. It was
originally scored for a chamber group of flute/piccolo,
clarinet (B flat and C), two pianos, glass harmonica,
xylophone, two violins, viola, cello and double bass,
but is usually performed today with a full orchestra of
strings, and with a glockenspiel substituting for the
rare glass harmonica. The term for this rare 11-piece
musical ensemble is a "hendectet" or an "undectet."
Saint-SaŽns, apparently concerned that the piece was
too frivolous and likely to harm his reputation as a
serious composer, suppressed performances of it and
only allowed one movement, Le cygne, to be published in
his lifetime. Only small private performances were
given for close friends like Franz Liszt.
Saint-SaŽns did, however, include a provision which
allowed the suite to be published after his death. It
was first performed on 26 February 1922, and it has
since become one of his most popular works. It is a
favorite of music teachers and young children, along
with Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf and Britten's The
Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. In fact, it is
very common to see any combination of these three works
together on modern CD recordings.
Movement 4. Tortues (Tortoises)
Strings and piano: A slightly satirical movement which
opens with a piano playing a pulsing triplet figure in
the higher register. The strings play a maddeningly
slow rendition of the famous 'Galop infernal' (commonly
called the Can-can) from Offenbach's operetta Orpheus
in the Underworld.