Camille Saint-Saëns was something of an anomaly among
French composers of the nineteenth century in that he
wrote in virtually all genres, including opera,
symphonies, concertos, songs, sacred and secular choral
music, solo piano, and chamber music. He was generally
not a pioneer, though he did help to revive some
earlier and largely forgotten dance forms, like the
bourée and gavotte. He was a conservative who wrote
many popular scores scattered throughout the various
genres: the Piano Concerto No. 2, Symphony No. 3
("Organ"), the symphonic poem Danse macabre, the opera
Samson et Dalila, and probably his most widely
performed work, The Carnival of The Animals. While he
remained a composer closely tied to tradition and
traditional forms in his later years, he did develop a
more arid style, less colorful and, in the end, less
appealing. He was also a poet and playwright of some
Saint-Saëns was born in Paris on October 9, 1835. He
was one of the most precocious musicians ever,
beginning piano lessons with his aunt at two-and-a-half
and composing his first work at three. At age seven he
studied composition with Pierre Maledin. When he was
ten, he gave a concert that included Beethoven's Third
Piano Concerto, Mozart's B flat Concerto, K. 460, along
with works by Bach, Handel, and Hummel. In his academic
studies, he displayed the same genius, learning
languages and advanced mathematics with ease and
celerity. He would also develop keen, lifelong
interests in geology and astronomy.
Curiously, after 1890, Saint-Saëns' music was regarded
with some condescension in his homeland, while in
England and the United States he was hailed as France's
greatest living composer well into the twentieth
century. Saint-Saëns experienced an especially
triumphant concert tour when he visited the U.S. in
1915. In the last two decades of his life, he remained
attached to his dogs and was largely a loner. He died
in Algeria on December 16, 1921.
Saint-Saëns’ first published works for piano were the
vivid and characterful Six Bagatelles, Op. 3. Album,
Op. 72 dates from his mid-career and teems with rich
colours and textures – haunting and exciting alike.
Elsewhere, in this third volume of the Complete Piano
Music, we find the richly evocative tone poem Rhapsodie
d’Auvergne, paraphrases, and some delicious encores.
Camille Saint-Saëns was a piano prodigy, eulogised by
Liszt amongst many others, one of the most exciting and
imaginative of composers for the instrument, and a
central figure in French Romanticism. His facility to
evoke scenes, personalities and colours was profound
and his very personal use of baroque and classical
forms was ingeniously eventful.
Album contains 6 Movements (1. Prelude, 2. Carillon, 3.
Toccata, 4. Valse, 5. Chanson Napolitaine & 6.
Although originally composed for piano, I created this
interpretation of the "Album" (Op. 72) for String
Quartet (2 Violins, Viola & Cello).