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Camille Saint - Saens

(1835 - 1921)

On October 9th, 1835, Saint-Saens was born in Paris.

He began piano lessons with his great-aunt at two years old, and he almost immediately began composition with his first, a little piece for the piano dated 22 March 1839.

At five he gave his first piano recital was given and at ten Saint-Saens was able to play any one of Beethoven's 32 sonatas by memory.

For nearly twenty years he was organist at the Madeleine in Paris.

He also taught at the Ecole Niedermeyer, where he his pupils included Gabriel Faure and Messager.

In 1871 he founded, together with Romain Bussine, the Societe Nationale de Musique to revive the artistic and cultural value of French music.

Saint-Saens composed large quantities of music for a great variety of instrumental and vocal combinations.

He also made extensive tours in Europe, the United States, South America and the Far East.

Saint-Saens died of pneumonia on 16 December 1921 at the Hotel de l'Oasis in Algiers.

His body was repatriated to Paris, honored by state funeral at La Madeleine, and interred at Cimetiere du Montparnasse in Paris.

After his death his popularity in France had waned and many of his works are no longer played.

The best known of the thirteen operas completed by Saint-Saens is "Samson et Dalila".

A romantic treatment of the biblical story Saint-Saens wrote a number of sacred and secular choral works and made a considerable contribution to the body of French solo song.

The third of his three numbered symphonies, the so-called Organ Symphony, is the best known.

Other popular orchestral works include Le Rouet d'Omphale (Omphale's Wheel) and Dance Macabre.

Saint-Saens wrote five piano concertos, three violin concertos and two cello concertos.

Both the Introduction and Rondo capriccioso and Havanaise are familiar in the repertoire for violin and orchestra.

Saint-Saens was equally prolific in his provision of chamber music, with a series of duo sonatas, including two violin sonatas, two cello sonatas and a variety of other pieces.

His popular zoological fantasy "Carnival of the Animals", for two pianos and orchestra was, in origin, written for the enjoyment of his friends.

Saint-Saens wrote a lot of pieces for piano: Variations, Etuden, Scherzos, Rhapsodie, etc, and the important Variations on a Thema of Beethoven op.35 for two pianos.



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