Camillle Saint-Saëns

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    Understanding the Music: Saint–Saëns - Danse macabre, Op. 40

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    Understanding the Music: Saint–Saëns - Havanaise for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 83

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    Understanding the Music: Saint–Saëns - Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61


Born in Paris in 1835, Camille Saint-Saens was an organist, pianist and composer of music in the classical French tradition. He was born with a remarkable talent. At age 3 he could already read and write, began piano lessons, and was composing two years later. He made his piano debut at age 10, playing Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven for Paris audiences.

In 1848, Saint-Saens entered the Paris Conservatoire, studying organ and composition. He was appointed organist of the Church de la Madeleine in 1857, a post that he held for 20 years. He also taught piano at l'école Niedermeyer from 1861 to 1865 where Gabriel Fauré was one of his pupils.

In 1871, Saint-Saëns co-founded the Société Nationale de Musique, a forum for promoting contemporary French Chamber and Orchestral music. During his association with it (1871-1886), he composed many of his better known works. Among them are Cello Concerto No. 1 (1872); symphonic poem, Danse Macabre (1874); opera, Samson et Delila (1877), Symphony No. 3 "Organ" (1886) and Carnival of the Animals (1886). The last piece, he wrote as a musical diversion for the amusement of his friends at a party and did not permit it to be published during his life. After his death it became very popular.

After resigning from the Société Nationale de Musique, Saint-Saens traveled extensively, performing and occasionally composing, throughout Europe, East Asia, South America, and North Africa. He died of pneumonia in Algiers, Algeria, in 1921, and his body was returned to Paris for a state funeral.
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