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Some Splendid Saint-Saëns Selections

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Today we celebrate the 179th birthday of Camille Saint-Saëns, a famous French composer, most well-known for his works The Carnival of the Animals, Danse macabre, Samson and Delilah, and a number of other pieces. Saint-Saëns began his musical studies at the incredible age of three, while he was living with his mother and aunt in Paris. He went on to have his musical debut at the age of 10, where he performed piano concerti by both Beethoven and Mozart from memory–a feat unheard of in that day. It was clear from the beginning that Camille Saint-Saëns would be leading a life of extraordinary musical talent.

In celebration of his birthday we here at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) Music Section would like to share some of our material that highlights the delightful music of Saint-Saëns.

Photo of Camille Saint-Saëns
Camille Saint Saens. Published by Bain News Service between ca. 1910 and ca. 1915.

DBM 00170: Samson and Delilah

This audio recording pairs the wonderful opera Samson et Delilah with a lecture from Marcia Davenport to help explain the story and stage action. This is an original radio broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera from 1936, with tenor Rene Maison as Samson and mezzo-soprano Gertrud Pålson-Wettergren as Delilah. One can also order a braille libretto for the opera in English at BRM 20418.

DBM 00092: Cello Concerto No. 1

Another one of Saint-Saëns’ most popular pieces is the Cello Concerto No. 1, written in 1872 for cellist Auguste Tolbecque. This particular recording showcases one of the most talented and well-respected cellists of the 20th century, Pablo Casals, who plays and gives a master class on this piece.

BRM 27834: Le Cygne from Carnaval des animaux (The Swan from Carnival of the Animals), transcribed for violin and piano [braille]

From one of Saint-Saëns’ most well-known works Carnaval des animaux, written in 1866, and a staple on most albums and concerts of classical music for children, this piece (Le Cygne [The Swan]) is typically a showcase piece for cellists. Here it has been transcribed for violin and piano and brailled by the Valentine Haüy Association (of which you can read about here).

Photo of Camille Saint-Saëns
Camille Saint-Saens, 5/12/15. Published by Bain News Service 5/12/15.


BRM 19844: Variations on a theme by Beethoven: two pianos, four hands, op. 35 [braille]

Variations on a Theme by Beethoven, Op. 35 is a duo, composed for two pianos, four hands.  The theme is taken from the Menuetto movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 18. Each of the ten variations showcases Saint-Saëns complete mastery of the 19th century musical tradition, as they are all unique in their own Romantic style.

So join us here in wishing him a joyeux anniversaire and listen to or play some of his music!

If you would like to order any of the material in this post, please contact the NLS Music Section.

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