Camille Saint‐Saëns
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1835-10-09
https://musicbrainz.org/artist/4137c070-15b2-4d00-a9f0-3517d02a9ba8
Camille Saint‐Saëns

Biography

Born less than a decade after the death of Beethoven, and still composing three years after that of Debussy, Saint-Saëns lived through the Romantic movement as a Classicist of boundless skill, energy and knowledge. His prolific output and his artistic ...

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Biography

Born less than a decade after the death of Beethoven, and still composing three years after that of Debussy, Saint-Saëns lived through the Romantic movement as a Classicist of boundless skill, energy and knowledge. His prolific output and his artistic beliefs held firm to timeless principles of beauty and form. As a result his music never seemed to grow old-fashioned (except to card-carrying Wagnerians) and by the end, when a generation of neo-Classicists - including Stravinsky and Poulenc - was on the rise and Saint-Saëns had turned to elegantly elliptical woodwind sonatas, it had started to sound contemporary all over again.

He had been a Parisian child prodigy, entering the Conservatoire at 13 to study organ and composition. His fluency stayed with him as his abilities flowered. An inquiring mind developed, taking in lasting interests from literature to astronomy. His five piano concertos show his characteristic qualities at their finest: suave melody and incisive articulation, orchestral clarity and colour, an often original use of conventional forms, and an expressive idiom that lives at the nerve-ends, generating unstoppable verve and, occasionally, great intensity, without lingering over the more profound moments.

These qualities fed into his operas, though here a greater capacity for spacious heart-searching would have been invaluable. New works of his were regularly staged, but his only lasting success was the relatively early Samson et Dalila, in which erotic obsession and dynamic action could carry the show. It was first produced (in 1877) not in opera-mad Paris, but by his friend Liszt in Weimar. The friendship bore fruit both ways, because Saint-Saëns adopted Liszt's genre of the symphonic poem and then used its methods of thematic transformation in his Third Symphony (the 'Organ', premiered in London in 1886), itself one of the founding masterpieces of a new French symphonic tradition. Ever he wit, he immediately used one of the most striking textures in his symphony for the 'Aquarium' of The Carnival of the Animals - though he banned public performance of the work in his lifetime.

Within the French musical world Saint-Saëns was an effective and - for all his later loathing of Debussy's music - a generally progressive influence. He was the driving force behind the Société Nationale de Musique, formed in 1871 to promote French instrumental music. The tragedy of his life was personal: emotional repression, a failed marriage and the early deaths of his two sons.

Profile © Robert Maycock

Camille Saint‐Saëns Audio & Video


Camille Saint‐Saëns Tracks

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Camille Saint‐Saëns
Danse Macabre
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Danse Macabre
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Havanaise (Op.83) arr. for violin and piano (orig. violin and orchestra)
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Havanaise (Op.83) arr. for violin and piano (orig. violin and orchestra)
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Concerto for Cello & Orchestra No 1 (Op.33) in A minor
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Concerto for Cello & Orchestra No 1 (Op.33) in A minor
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Feuillet d'album arr. Taffanel for wind octet [orig. for piano duet]
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Feuillet d'album arr. Taffanel for wind octet [orig. for piano duet]
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Allegro appassionato in C sharp minor (Op.70)
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Allegro appassionato in C sharp minor (Op.70)
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33 (i. Allegro & ii. Allegretto)
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Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33 (i. Allegro & ii. Allegretto)
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Caprice after the study in the form of a waltz
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Caprice after the study in the form of a waltz
Camille Saint‐Saëns
6 Studies for piano (Op.52), no.4; Etude de rhythme
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6 Studies for piano (Op.52), no.4; Etude de rhythme
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Concerto no. 2 in G minor Op.22 for piano and orchestra - 3rd mvt
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Concerto no. 2 in G minor Op.22 for piano and orchestra - 3rd mvt
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Le Cygne (The Swan)
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Le Cygne (The Swan)
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix - Act 2 sc.3 from Samson et Dalila
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Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix - Act 2 sc.3 from Samson et Dalila
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Danse macabre - symphonic poem (Op.40) [with solo violin]
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Danse macabre - symphonic poem (Op.40) [with solo violin]
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Symphony no. 3 (Op.78) in C minor "Organ symphony", 2nd mvt; Finale
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Symphony no. 3 (Op.78) in C minor "Organ symphony", 2nd mvt; Finale
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Caprice-Valse Op.76 "Wedding Cake"
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Caprice-Valse Op.76 "Wedding Cake"
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Morceau de concert for harp & orchestra in G major, Op 154
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Morceau de concert for harp & orchestra in G major, Op 154
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Cello Concerto no.1 in A minor (Op.33): 3rd mvt
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Cello Concerto no.1 in A minor (Op.33): 3rd mvt
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Concerto for piano and orchestra no.5 in F major Op.103, "Egyptian"
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Concerto for piano and orchestra no.5 in F major Op.103, "Egyptian"
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Dalila's aria: 'Mon coeur s'ouvre' (from "Samson et Dalila", Act 2 Scene 3)
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Dalila's aria: 'Mon coeur s'ouvre' (from "Samson et Dalila", Act 2 Scene 3)
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Carnival of the Animals (Aquarium)
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Carnival of the Animals (Aquarium)
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Septet for trumpet, piano and strings (Op.65) in E flat major
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Septet for trumpet, piano and strings (Op.65) in E flat major
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Le Carnaval des animaux
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Le Carnaval des animaux
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Sarabande et rigaudon for orchestra (Op.93)
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Sarabande et rigaudon for orchestra (Op.93)
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Introduction and rondo capriccioso (Op.28), arr. for violin & piano
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Introduction and rondo capriccioso (Op.28), arr. for violin & piano
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Sonata for bassoon and piano (Op.168) in G major
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Sonata for bassoon and piano (Op.168) in G major
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Concerto No. 5 In F Major Op.103 (Egyptian) For Piano And Orchestra
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Concerto No. 5 In F Major Op.103 (Egyptian) For Piano And Orchestra
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Bassoon Sonata, Op.168
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Bassoon Sonata, Op.168
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Piano Concerto No 5 in F major, Op 103 'Egyptian' (Molto allegro)
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Piano Concerto No 5 in F major, Op 103 'Egyptian' (Molto allegro)
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op.22
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Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op.22
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Le Carnaval des animaux, no.7; Aquarium
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Le Carnaval des animaux, no.7; Aquarium

Le Carnaval des animaux, no.7; Aquarium

Performer
Nelson Freire and Martha Argerich (pianos), Gidon Kremer and Isabelle van Keulen (violins), Tabea Zimmermann (viola), Mischa Maisky (cello), Georg Hortnagel (db), Eduard Brunner (clarinet), Irena Grafenauer (flute), Markus Steckeler (xylophone), Edith Sal
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Caprice on Danish and Russian Airs, Op.79
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Caprice on Danish and Russian Airs, Op.79
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Etude in D flat (Op.52 No.6) (Etude en forme de valse)
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Etude in D flat (Op.52 No.6) (Etude en forme de valse)
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Le Carnaval des animaux
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Le Carnaval des animaux
Camille Saint‐Saëns
Variations on a theme by Beethoven (Op.35)
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Variations on a theme by Beethoven (Op.35)
Add music you love and enjoy it
Playlists featuring Camille Saint‐Saëns
Radio 3 Breakfast: Music Box
Radio 3 Breakfast: Music Box
Essential Classics: Guest Choices
Essential Classics: Guest Choices
BBC Proms 2015: Katie Derham Curates
BBC Proms 2015: Katie Derham Curates
20 Years of Private Passions
20 Years of Private Passions


Camille Saint‐Saëns Biography

Born less than a decade after the death of Beethoven, and still composing three years after that of Debussy, Saint-Saëns lived through the Romantic movement as a Classicist of boundless skill, energy and knowledge. His prolific output and his artistic beliefs held firm to timeless principles of beauty and form. As a result his music never seemed to grow old-fashioned (except to card-carrying Wagnerians) and by the end, when a generation of neo-Classicists - including Stravinsky and Poulenc - was on the rise and Saint-Saëns had turned to elegantly elliptical woodwind sonatas, it had started to sound contemporary all over again.

He had been a Parisian child prodigy, entering the Conservatoire at 13 to study organ and composition. His fluency stayed with him as his abilities flowered. An inquiring mind developed, taking in lasting interests from literature to astronomy. His five piano concertos show his characteristic qualities at their finest: suave melody and incisive articulation, orchestral clarity and colour, an often original use of conventional forms, and an expressive idiom that lives at the nerve-ends, generating unstoppable verve and, occasionally, great intensity, without lingering over the more profound moments.

These qualities fed into his operas, though here a greater capacity for spacious heart-searching would have been invaluable. New works of his were regularly staged, but his only lasting success was the relatively early Samson et Dalila, in which erotic obsession and dynamic action could carry the show. It was first produced (in 1877) not in opera-mad Paris, but by his friend Liszt in Weimar. The friendship bore fruit both ways, because Saint-Saëns adopted Liszt's genre of the symphonic poem and then used its methods of thematic transformation in his Third Symphony (the 'Organ', premiered in London in 1886), itself one of the founding masterpieces of a new French symphonic tradition. Ever he wit, he immediately used one of the most striking textures in his symphony for the 'Aquarium' of The Carnival of the Animals - though he banned public performance of the work in his lifetime.

Within the French musical world Saint-Saëns was an effective and - for all his later loathing of Debussy's music - a generally progressive influence. He was the driving force behind the Société Nationale de Musique, formed in 1871 to promote French instrumental music. The tragedy of his life was personal: emotional repression, a failed marriage and the early deaths of his two sons.

Profile © Robert Maycock

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