On This Day… October 9

Today we look at a French composer, who was also a pianist, organist and conductor. He wrote a number of pieces that would become very popular, as well as works of incredible quality. Camille Saint-Saëns, born on this day in 1835.

Born in Paris, his father died three months after his birth. His mother sought the assistance from his Aunt, who moved in and introduced Saint-Saëns to the piano. A Child prodigy, he had perfect pitch at the age of two, his first composition at age 4, had learned to read and write by the age of 3 and had mastered Latin at the age of 7. At the age of 5, he gave his first public performance, accompanying a Beethoven violin sonata. At the age of 10, he gave his public debut at Salle Pleyel, where he performed works by Mozart, Haydn, Kalkbrenner, Hummel and Bach. As an encore, he offered to play any one of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas from memory. News of this concert spread far an wide – even as far as Boston.

Saint-Saëns went on to study composition at the Conservatoire de Paris, where he wrote his first symphony at the age of 16. After a long career, it culminated in 1886 with the publication of his two most renowned works,
The Carnival of the Animals and Symphony number 3, which was dedicated to Franz Liszt. However, after being removed from the Société Nationale de Musique in the same year, and his mother’s death two years later, he left Paris for the Canary Islands, then traveled to many places around the world, chronicling it in books under his nom de plume, Sannois.

Today I leave you with three of his most popular works. We start with Danse Macabre, which is based off a poem on an old French superstition – its all explained in the video. We’ll then hear the last movement of his Symphony Number 3, the Organ. Finally, we’ll hear Heifetz performing Introduction and Rondo Capricioso.

Saint-Saëns wrote a lot of music – what’s your favourite piece? Have you got a favourite performance of any of the pieces above? Let me know in the comments, or write a blog post linking to this post, and I’ll include a link below.

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