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CAMILLE SAINT-SAENS
French Pianist and Composer (1835-1921)



Camille Saint-Saens was a prolific composer of the first rank, a pianist who was greatly admired by Franz Liszt and Anton Rubinstein, the pianistic giants of the age, a botanist, geologist, archaeologist, lepidopterist, and mathematician, a poet and playwright and philosopher - he was an atheist who believed that science and art would ultimately replace religion. In short, he was a Renaissance man.

But it is as a composer that he is best known. He composed in every genre; opera, symphony; concerto, chamber music, solo piano music, and he was the first composer in history to write music specifically for a film, La Mort du duc de Guise (1908).

He was an early advocate of Richard Wagner and amazed Wagner by sight reading the full scores of several of his operas. He was a supporter of Franz Liszt and dedicated to Liszt his Third Symphony, the crowning glory of 19th century French Orchestral music. Camille Saint-Saens was called "the greatest musical mind" of the era by Hans von Bülow, the leading German conductor of the time.

But he was no diplomat. And he made no secret of his intense dislike of many of the most important French composers of his time. He hated the music of Claude Debussy, César Franck, Jules Massenet, Vincent D'Indy. And he made a most public display of walking out of the première of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps over what he called Stravinsky's "misuse" of the bassoon.

He was a melodist first and foremost and the new musical language of some of his peers must have been anathema to him. (But Massenet?) He once said of himself that melodies fell from him like apples from an apple tree. This certainly would not be said of the majority of the composers he so disliked and whose music was looking forward toward new fundamentals of music.



Saint-Saëns  Piano Concerto 2 in G minor, Op 22

In the first recording, from 1904, the composer plays an abridged solo version of the first movement.  This extraordinary document is a performance by a pianist born 180 years ago, and one is unlikely ever to have heard this music played quite in this manner.  It is a window into what the composer had in mind when he wrote the music. 




Saint-Saëns  Mazurka 1 in G minor, Op 21

recorded in 1919




Saint-Saëns  Mazurkas

3, Op 66 (rec 1915)
1 in G minor, Op 21 (rec 1917)




Saint-Saëns  Suite Algerienne, Op 60

3 "Reverie du soir a Blidah"
4 "Marche militaire française"

recorded in 1919




Saint-Saëns  Rhapsodie d'Auvergne, Op 73

recorded in 1904




Saint-Saëns  Improvized Cadenza for "Africa", Op 89

recorded in 1904




Saint-Saëns  Samson et Delilah improvisation

1915 Duo-Art piano roll




Saint-Saëns  Valse Mignonne, Op 104

recorded in 1919




Beethoven  ii Adagio grazioso from Piano Sonata 16 in G major, Op 31~1

1905 Welte-Mignon piano roll




Chopin  Nocturne 5 in F major, Op 15~2

1905 Welte-Mignon piano roll




Camille Saint-Saëns conducts, plays and speaks










For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries, here is my first with a strong musical polemic as background

Murder in the House of the Muse

which is also available as an audiobook.



And this is the more recently published second mystery in the series:

Murder Follows the Muse



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