Camille Saint-Saens was not only an idealistic composer but also a pianist, organist, writer and a teacher. Some called him the world’s greatest organist in the 19th century. His talent was first recognized at a very young age of ten when he made his concert debut starting as a musical prodigy. His compositions were mostly praised for the purity and gracefulness in his conservative musical style. He was organist, pianist, conductor, caricaturist, novice in science, mathematics and astronomy, critic, archaeologist, writer of plays, poetry, philosophy, essayist on botany and ancient music, editor of music and the composer of more than 300 works of most types of music. (https://www.
gramophone.co.uk/editorial/camille-saint-sa%C3%ABns-biography) Saint-Saens was born on October 9, 1835 in Paris. He was the only child of Jacques-Joseph-Victor Saint-Saens and Francoise-Clemence. After his father’s death when he was a baby, he was brought up by his mother and her aunt, Charlotte Masson who taught the basics of piano playing. Soon after, his remarkable musical talent was recognized to the point that his mother had to restricted the number of performances he gave so he couldn’t be famous too soon.
This also led him to study at the Paris Conservatoire, France’s most remarkable music academy, and appointed to France’s most precious organ post in the Madeleine. In his early ages he had already written and performed his first two symphonies along with his duties as an organist and piano professor at Ecole Niedermeyer. In the 1870s he became the most well known French composer of this time with his music to the point he had tours in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Far East, Russia, and South America. In the 1880s he staged Henry VIII that was a success from an effort to conjure the historical context of English music from the period by mixing several English, Scottish, and Irish folk melodies.In 1867, Saint-Saens became a chevalier of the Legion of Honour which is the highest French order of merit and had the honor of becoming an Officier in 1884 and Grand Croix in 1913. He was also favored by foreign countries like Britain whom gave him doctorates from Cambridge and Oxford. (https://en.wikipedia.
org/wiki/Camille_Saint-Sa%C3%ABns#Honours_and_reputation) In Saint-Saens’s mission to expand repertoire for chamber music for wind instruments, he decided to write one for trombone due to his three wind sonatas for oboe, clarinet, and bassoon. Composed in 1915, Cavatine was a solo for trombone with lyrical and romantic characteristics was written for advanced trombone players accompanied by a piano. The piece shows his previous influences from popular compositions like in the middle depicts ‘The Swan’ from Carnival of Animals and the flash of adagio from Organ Symphony where the trombone is featured as a solo. The piece opens with a sensational chord from the piano to introduce the trombone. Known as one of the best classical organists in history, Saint-Saens wrote the Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78 also popularly known as the Organ Symphony which was his last attempt at the symphonic form. The symphony was commissioned in England by the Royal Philharmonic Society.
A unique symphony with the organ not dominating the orchestra or vice versa, a new duo to create the perfect one of a kind along with the use of piano. This piece had romantic characteristics of the early 20th century with the use of flutes, piccolo, oboes, cor anglais, clarinets, bass clarinet, bassoons, contrabassoon, horns, trumpets, trombones, tuba, timpani, triangle, cymbals, bass drum, piano, strings, and organ. His most famous work is ‘Samson et Dalila’ which is based on a biblical tale of Samson and Delilah from the Old Testament. This was an opera that Saint-Saens frequently performed.
Although the opera wasn’t popular at first, in the 1890s the opera began to revive after performing in one of the world’s great opera houses in Germany at the Hamburg State Opera. (Flynn 1&3) In his thirties, he finally decided to stop living his lonely life and fell in love with Marie-Laure Truffot, a young sister of one of his students, and married her in 1875 and soon had two sons who died in infancy. The first child, Andre fell from a window and died while the second died from pneumonia. (https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/camille-saint-sans-5702.php) This caused Saint-Saens to blame his wife for Andre’s accident making the marriage to collapse and left her and never came back.
He never recovered and began to rely on his former student and friend, Gabriel Faure. Sadly in 1888 when his mother died he considered suicide and decided to live a nomadic life. He stopped being productive and began to be bitter towards people leading him to make enemies instead of friends and the negativity began to overshadow his reputation. In the last two decades of his life, everyone ditched Saint-Saens due to his “old-fashioned taste”. Camille Saint-Saens died in Algiers due to a heart attack on December 16, 1921. As mentioned earlier, Camille Saint- Saens developed an appreciation and interest in music at an extremely young age.
Beginning piano lessons at only two-and-a-half years old, Saint-Saens would compose his first musical piece at three––albeit it was very childish, considering his age. At the age of only seven he began to study composition with French composer Pierre Maleden; three years later he years later at the age of ten he would give a concert that encompassed Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, Mozart’s B flat Concert K. 460 and featured excerpts from pieces by Bach, Handel and Hummel. In 1848––at only 13 years of age––Saint-Saens would enter the Paris Conservatory where he studied organ and eventually composition in Fromental Halevy’s class starting in 1850. At this point in his life he began to attract the attention of older musicians associated with the Paris Conservatory, eventually meeting Franz Listz, whose music and personality left a great impression of Saint-Saens. From the period of 1853 to 1876 Saint-Saens held multiple posts as a Church organist; from 1861-1865 he also taught at the Ecole Niedermeyer.
He also produced the 1853 Symphony in F or “Urbs Roma”,