Saint-Saëns - Carnival of the Animals
French to his fingertips - colourful yet tasteful, flamboyant yet refined - Saint Saëns was the most rounded intellectual in all of music. But he knew how to let his hair down too. His witty and tuneful zoological fantasy never fails to delight the child in us all, while the 'Organ' Symphony is one of the most thrilling experiences in all of music.
1-14. The Carnival of The Animals
Anne Martindale Williams (cello), Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, André Previn
It's one of his most popular works, but Saint-Saëns premiered his ‘grand zoological fantasy’ privately as he thought the work detracted from his 'serious' image! Each of the music's 14 movements represents a different animal, including a lion, a donkey and - Saint-Saëns' little joke - pianists!
15. Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso
Kyung Wha Chung (violin)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Charles Dutoit
The Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso was written in 1863 for the virtuoso violinist Pablo de Sarasate. He was a prodigy who, at the age of just 15, commissioned a piece from Saint-Saëns. It became Saint-Saëns' first violin concerto.
16. Danse macabre
Philharmonia Orchestra, Charles Dutoit
Originally it was for voice and piano but, thankfully, Saint-Saëns reworked it a couple of years later, substituting a violin for the voice and adding the full orchestra. There is a complete programmatic story to the Danse Macabre, with the violin playing Death himself and the music starting at midnight hence the twelve opening notes.
17-20. Symphony No. 3 'Organ Symphony'
Peter Hurford (organ), Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Charles Dutoit
His Symphony No. 3 is probably best understood as a ‘Symphony with added organ’, because only two of its four movements feature the instrument. it’s a magnificent work, with the composer saying he was writing to his limits: ‘I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have accomplished here, I will never achieve again.’