"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-Saëns 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-Saëns, 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-Saëns 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 12. Fossiles (Fossils)
Strings, two pianos, clarinet, and xylophone: Here,
Saint-Saëns mimics his own composition, the Danse
macabre, which makes heavy use of the xylophone to
evoke the image of skeletons playing card games, the
bones clacking together to the beat. The musical themes
from Danse macabre are also quoted; the xylophone and
the violin play much of the melody, alternating with
the piano and clarinet. The piano part is especially
difficult here - octaves that jump in quick thirds.
Allusions to "Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman" (better known
in the English-speaking world as Twinkle Twinkle Little
Star), the French nursery rhymes "Au clair de la lune",
and "J'ai du bon tabac" (the piano plays the same
melody upside down), the popular anthem Partant pour la
Syrie, as well as the aria Una voce poco fa from
Rossini's The Barber of Seville can also be heard.
Although originally written for 2 Pianos & Orchestra, I
created this arrangement for Winds (Piccolo, Flute,
Oboe, Bb Clarinet, English Horn, French Horn & Bassoon)
& Strings (2 Violins, Viola, Cello & Bass).