Camille Saint-Saëns  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Charles Camille Saint-Saëns (9 October 183516 December 1921) was a French composer, organist, conductor, and pianist, known especially for his orchestral works The Carnival of the Animals, Danse Macabre, Samson et Dalila , and Symphony No. 3 (Organ Symphony).

Legacy

Relationships with Other Composers

Saint-Saëns was either friend or enemy to Europe's most distinguished musicians. He stayed close to Franz Liszt and maintained a fast friendship with his pupil Gabriel Fauré. But despite his strong advocacy of French music, Saint-Saëns openly despised many of his fellow-composers in France such as Franck, d'Indy, and Jules Massenet. Saint-Saëns also hated the music of Claude Debussy; he is reported to have told Pierre Lalo, music critic, and son of composer Édouard Lalo, "I have stayed in Paris to speak ill of Pelléas et Mélisande." The personal animosity was mutual; Debussy quipped: "I have a horror of sentimentality, and I cannot forget that its name is Saint-Saëns." On other occasions, however, Debussy acknowledged an admiration for Saint-Saëns' musical talents.

Saint-Saëns had been an early champion of Richard Wagner's music in France, teaching his pieces during his tenure at the École Niedermeyer and premiering the March from Tannhäuser. He had stunned even Wagner himself when he sight-read the entire orchestral scores of Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde, and Siegfried, prompting Hans von Bülow to refer to him as, "the greatest musical mind" of the era. However, despite admitting appreciation for the power of Wagner's work, Saint-Saëns defiantly stated that he was not an aficionado. In 1886, Saint-Saëns was punished for some particularly harsh and anti-German comments on the Paris production of Lohengrin by losing engagements and receiving negative reviews throughout Germany. Later, after World War I, Saint-Saëns angered both French and Germans with his inflammatory articles entitled Germanophilie, which ruthlessly attacked Wagner.

On 29 May 1913, Saint-Saëns stormed out of the première of Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring), allegedly infuriated over the misuse of the bassoon in the ballet's opening bars.

Reputation

Saint-Saëns began his musical career as a musical pioneer, introducing to France the symphonic poem and championing the radical works of Liszt and Wagner at a time when Bach and Mozart were the norms. He had been the embodiment of artistic modernity during the 1850s and 1860s, but soon transformed himself into a somewhat bitter reactionary. By the dawn of the 20th century, Saint-Saëns was an ultra-conservative, fighting the influence of Debussy and Richard Strauss. This is hardly surprising—Saint-Saëns' career began while Chopin and Mendelssohn were in their prime, and ended at the commencement of the Jazz Age; but his image endured for years after his death.

As a composer, Saint-Saëns was often criticized for his refusal to embrace romanticism and at the same time, rather paradoxically, for his adherence to the conventions of 19th-century musical language. Indeed, he was complimented in a back-handed way by Thomas Beecham who called him "the greatest writer of second-rate music who ever lived." He is remembered chiefly for works such as Le Carnaval des Animaux, which was not published in full until after his death; the opera Samson and Delilah, the Symphony No. 3; the second, fourth and fifth piano concertos; the third violin concerto; the first cello concerto; and the first violin sonata.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Camille Saint-Saëns" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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