French composer, pianist, organist, conductor, music writer and public figure, teacher.
Camille Saint-Saëns went down in history primarily as a composer, pianist, teacher and conductor. However, the talent of this truly universally gifted personality is far from exhausted. Saint-Saëns was the author of books on philosophy, literature; painting, theater, composed poems and plays wrote critical essays and painted caricatures. He was elected a member of the French Astronomical Society, since his erudition in physics, astronomy, archeology and history was not inferior to the knowledge of some scientists. In his polemical articles, the composer opposed the limitations of creative interests, dogmatism, and advocated a comprehensive study of the artistic tastes of the public. “A taste of the public for art,” the composer emphasized, “good or simple - it makes no difference, it is an infinitely precious guide for the artist. Whether he is a genius or talent, following this taste, he will be able to create good works".
Camille Saint-Saëns was born in a family associated with art (his father wrote poetry and his mother was an artist). The further composer's vivid musical talent manifested itself in such an early childhood that it glorified him as “the second Mozart”. The boy was learning to play the piano from the age of three, at the age of 5, he began to compose music, and from ten he concerted as a pianist. In 1848, Saint-Saëns entered the Paris Conservatory, and graduated from it after 3 years - first in the organ class, then in the composition class. By the time he graduated from the conservatory, Saint-Saëns was already a mature musician, the author of many compositions, including the First Symphony, which was highly appreciated by G. Berlioz and S. Gounod. From 1853 to 1877, Saint-Saëns worked in various Paris cathedrals. His art of organ improvisation very quickly gained universal recognition in Europe.
A man of indefatigable energy, Saint-Saëns, however, was not only playing the organ and composing music. He performed as a pianist and conductor, edited and published works the old masters’ compositions, wrote theoretical works, became one of the founders and teachers of the National Music Society. In the 70’s his compositions appear appeared one after another. His contemporaries met them with enthusiasm. Among them are The symphonic poems “Omphale's Spinning Wheel” and “Dance of Death”, the operas “The Yellow Princess”, “The Silver Bell”, and “Samson and Delilah”, one of the pinnacles of the composer's work.
Quitting his work in the cathedrals, Saint-Saëns devoted himself entirely to composition. However, he traveled a lot around the world. The famous musician was elected a member of the Institute of France (1881), an honorary doctor of the University of Cambridge (1893), an honorary member of the St. Petersburg branch of Russian Musical Society (1909). Saint-Saëns had repeatedly visited Russia, where his art was always warmly welcomed. He was friendly with Anton Rubinstein and César Cui, vividly interested in the music by Mikhail Glinka, Piotr Tchaikovsky, composers - members of The Five mighty. Saint-Saëns brought from Russia to France the piano score of “Boris Godunov” by Modest Mussorgsky.
Until the end of his life, Saint-Saëns lived a full-blooded creative life – he composed, performed concerts and traveled, recorded his playing. The last concerts of the 85-year-old musician were in August 1921, shortly before his death. Throughout his career, the composer worked especially fruitfully in the instrumental genre, giving the first place to virtuoso concert works. The compositions of Saint-Saëns, such as Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso for violin and orchestra, The Third Violin Concert (dedicated to the famous violinist Pablo de Sarasate) and Concert for cello, gained wide popularity. These and other works (Symphony with Organ, symphonic poems, 5 piano concerts) nominated Saint-Saëns as one of the major French composers. He created 12 operas, of which the most popular was Samson and Delilah, written in the biblical plot. For the first time it was performed in Weimar and was conducted by Ferencz Liszt (1877). The music of the opera captivates with the breadth of melodic breathing, the charm of musical characteristics of the central character - Delilah. According to Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, this composition is "the ideal of the opera form". The art of Saint-Saëns is characterized by the images of bright lyrics, contemplation, but in addition, noble pathetic and moods of joy. The intellectual, logical principle often in his music prevails over the emotional. The composer widely used the intonations of folklore and genre art in his compositions. Song-recitation melos, flexible rhythm, grace and variety of textures, clarity of orchestral color, a synthesis of classical and poetic and romantic principles of shaping - all these features are reflected in the best works of Saint-Saëns , who entered one of the brightest pages in the history of world musical culture.Based on materials from Belcanto.ru, I. Vetlitsyna, M. Druskin