Paris-born Charles Camille Saint-Saëns was a child
prodigy, composing his first piece for piano at the age
of three. He was a private student of Gounod and
entered the Paris Conservatory at age 13. Saint-Saëns
had total recall; any book he read or tune he heard was
forever committed to his memory.
The Trois Préludes et Fugues, Op 99 were written in
1894 and are Saint-Saëns’ first significant organ
pieces for nearly thirty years. Dedicated to Widor,
Guilmant and Gigout respectively they should, in the
opinion of Vierne, be in the repertoire of every
serious organist, both for their style and virtuosity.
They combine characterful preludes with well-worked
fugues which Saint-Saëns expressed some hesitation in
writing. He was clearly satisfied with the results
however as he included them in his 1899 recital in
front of the academics at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Whilst the preludes of Nos 1 and 2 are both gentle and
graceful, the third is a brilliant, if economical,
toccata; the fugue which follows it is based on a
sweeping and eminently singable subject that builds to
a rousing conclusion not out of place in the opera
house. The second of the set, arguably the best known,
sets off a somewhat jaunty fugue subject against the
refined salon music of its prelude. In contrast the
fugue subject of the E major derives its material from
the elegant lines of the prelude itself and is a
beautiful example of Saint-Saëns’ understated
Although originally written for Organ, I created this
interpretation for Solo Marimba & Strings (2 Violins,
Viola & Cello).