Vintage LP Camille Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 78 (
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Composed by CAMILLE SAINT-SAENS
Camille Saint-SaÃ«ns was something of an anomaly among French composers of the nineteenth century in that he wrote in virtually all genres, including opera, symphonies, concertos, songs, sacred and secular choral music, solo piano, and chamber music. He was generally not a pioneer, though he did help to revive some earlier and largely forgotten dance forms, like the bourÃ©e and gavotte. He was a conservative who wrote many popular scores scattered throughout the various genres: the Piano Concerto No. 2, Symphony No. 3 ("Organ"), the symphonic poem Danse macabre, the opera Samson et Dalila, and probably his most widely performed work, The Carnival of The Animals. While he remained a composer closely tied to tradition and traditional forms in his later years, he did develop a more arid style, less colorful and, in the end, less appealing. He was also a poet and playwright of some distinction.
Saint-SaÃ«ns was born in Paris on October 9, 1835. He was one of the most precocious musicians ever, beginning piano lessons with his aunt at two-and-a-half and composing his first work at three. At age seven he studied composition with Pierre Maledin. When he was ten, he gave a concert that included Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto, Mozart's B flat Concerto, K. 460, along with works by Bach, Handel, and Hummel. In his academic studies, he displayed the same genius, learning languages and advanced mathematics with ease and celerity. He would also develop keen, lifelong interests in geology and astronomy.
In 1848, he entered the Paris Conservatory and studied organ and composition, the latter with HalÃ©vy. By his early twenties, following the composition of two symphonies, he had won the admiration and support of Berlioz, Liszt, Gounod, Rossini, and other notable figures. From 1853 to 1876, he held church organist posts; he also taught at the Ã‰cole Niedermeyer (1861-1865). He composed much throughout his early years, turning out the 1853 Symphony in F ("Urbs Roma"), a Mass (1855) and several concertos, including the popular second, for piano (1868).
In 1875, Saint-SaÃ«ns married the 19-year-old Marie Truffot, bringing on perhaps the saddest chapter in his life. The union produced two children who died within six weeks of each other, one from a four-story fall. The marriage ended in 1881. Oddly, this dark period in his life produced some of his most popular works, including Danse macabre (1875) and Samson et Dalila (1878). After the tragic events of his marriage, Saint-SaÃ«ns developed a fondness for FaurÃ© and his family, acting as a second father to FaurÃ©'s children.
But he also remained very close to his mother, who had opposed his marriage. When she died in 1888, the composer fell into a deep depression, even contemplating suicide for a time. He did much travel in the years that followed and developed an interest in Algeria and Egypt, which eventually inspired him to write Africa (1891) and his Piano Concerto No. 5, the "Egyptian". He also turned out works unrelated to exotic places, such as his popular and most enduring serious composition, the Symphony No. 3.
Curiously, after 1890, Saint-SaÃ«ns' music was regarded with some condescension in his homeland, while in England and the United States he was hailed as France's greatest living composer well into the twentieth century. Saint-SaÃ«ns experienced an especially triumphant concert tour when he visited the U.S. in 1915. In the last two decades of his life, he remained attached to his dogs and was largely a loner. He died in Algeria on December 16, 1921.
SYMPHONY No. 3 in C Minor ("Organ"), Op. 78
Composition Description by John Palmer
The London Philharmonic Society commissioned the Symphony No. 3 from Saint-SaÃ«ns, much as it had Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Saint-SaÃ«ns directed the first performance in London on May 19, 1886. Although he lived until 1921, Saint-SaÃ«ns would not compose another symphony. He later explained: "With it I have given all I could give. What I did I could not achieve again." He had intended to dedicate the piece to Liszt, but the score was published after Liszt's death with the inscription, "Ã la Memoire de Franz Liszt."
The Symphony in C minor shows Saint-SaÃ«ns' use of thematic transformation, also present in the overture Spartacus and the Fourth Piano Concerto. This technique Saint-SaÃ«ns observed in the symphonic poems of Liszt, as well as in Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique. Following their lead, Saint-SaÃ«ns takes his principal theme through transformations throughout his Third Symphony. To the typical forces of a large orchestra he added his and Liszt's primary instruments, the organ and piano. Saint-SaÃ«ns cast the symphony in two large sections, but each of these is in two clear parts, creating a traditional four-movement work.
OMPHALE'S SPINNING WHEEL, Op. 31
DANCE MACABRE, Symphonic Poem in G Minor, Op. 40
Composition Description by John Palmer
Composed in 1874 and published in 1875, Danse macabre is the third of Saint-SaÃ«ns' four orchestral tone poems and is easily his most popular work in that medium. In his Le carnaval des animaux (The Carnival of the Animals), composed in 1886, Saint-SaÃ«ns parodies the Danse macabre, as well as works by other composers.
The title of Danse macabre is usually translated as Dance of Death, but Ghoulish Dance or Dance of Grim Humor might better communicate the character of the piece. Saint-SaÃ«ns did not originally write the Danse macabre as a work for orchestra. It was first a song for voice and piano that the composer later transcribed and modified for orchestra. A few lines from the song's text will aid in understanding the symphonic poem: "Death at midnight plays a dance-tune/Zig, zig, zig on his violin....Through the gloom, white skeletons pass/Running and leaping in their shrouds....The bones of the dancers are heard to crack." Once the cock crows, signaling the approach of morning, the fun ends. It is possible that this is the first instance of Death being portrayed as a violinist, an instrument generally associated with the devil.
Marie-Claire Alain, at the Organ
Marie-Claire Alain was the youngest child in a family of distinguished musicians, born August 10, 1926, in St. Germain-en Laye, a Paris suburb. Her father, Albert Alain, a composer and amateur organ builder, had been a pupil of Guilmant and FaurÃ©. Her sister Odile was a promising soprano and pianist who lost her life early in a mountaineering accident; her older brother, Olivier, was a composer, pianist, and musicologist. Her oldest brother was the renowned Jehan Alain, a composer and organist whose teachers included DuprÃ©, Dukas, and Jean Roger-Ducasse. He numbered Messiaen and Poulenc among his closest friends and his works for organ â€” Litanies, in particular â€” established him as one of the brightest stars among rising French composers in the decade before his battlefield death in 1940, at 29. A twin sense of loss and inheritance informed her studies and career.
and the National Orchestra of the O.R.T.F.
conducted by Jean Martinon
In the words of one of his biographers, conductor Jean Martinon's performances "were distinguished by a concern for translucent orchestral textures, and sustained by a subtle sense of rhythm and phrasing." Occasionally, "he stressed a poetic inflection at the expense of literal accuracy."
Martinon's first instrument was the violin; he studied at the Lyons Conservatory (1924-1925), then transferred to the Paris Conservatory, where he won first prize in violin upon his graduation in 1928. He subsequently studied composition, with Albert Roussel, and conducting, with Charles Munch and Roger DesormiÃ¨re. Until the outbreak of World War II, Martinon was primarily a composer. His early substantial works include a Symphoniette for piano, percussion, and strings (1935); Symphony No. 1 (1936); Concerto giocoso for violin and orchestra (1937); and a wind quintet (1938). At the start of the war he was drafted into the French army. Taken prisoner in 1940, he passed the next two years in a Nazi labor camp. There, he wrote Stalag IX (Musique d'exil), an orchestral piece incorporating elements of jazz; during his internment, he also composed several religious works, including Absolve, Domine for male chorus and orchestra, and Psalm 136 (Chant des captifs), the latter receiving a composition prize from the city of Paris in 1946.
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