Camille Saint-Saëns Composer
Season 24/25 Artist


Born in Paris on October 9, 1835, Camille Saint-Saëns showed an early gift for music. A child prodigy on piano, organ, and composition, he gave his first private recital at the age of four and a half (reported in the Moniteur Universel of August 1, 1840), and at eleven he performed in public at the Salle Pleyel. He entered the Conservatoire at the age of thirteen and won the first prize for organ in 1851. At the age of eighteen, he was appointed organist of the Saint-Merri church and created his first symphony. In 1857, he became titular of the Cavaillé-Coll organ at the church of La Madeleine, a position he held for twenty years. Liszt hailed Saint-Saëns as "the first organist in the world". From 1861 to 1865, he taught piano at the École Niedermeyer in Paris, where his students included Gabriel Fauré and André Messager. Although he failed twice in the Prix de Rome competition, he quickly became well known. As a composer, he distinguished himself in all fields: twelve operas, including La Princesse jaune (1872), Samson et Dalila (1877), Henri VIII (1883), Déjanire (1911), religious works, including a Messe solennelle and a Requiem, numerous oratorios, symphonic poems (Le Rouet d'Omphale, 1871; Phaéton, 1873; La Danse macabre, 1875), five symphonies, the last of which, called No. 3, with organ (1886), five piano concertos, three violin concertos and two for cello, chamber music, picturesque pieces (Le Carnaval des animaux, 1886), etc. In 1908, he was the first renowned composer to write a film score, for The Assassination of the Duke of Guise. In addition to his own compositional work, he collaborated in the publication of the works of Gluck, Beethoven, Liszt, Mozart and, in the 1870s, he wrote regularly in newspapers, including La Gazette musicale. In 1871, he founded the Société nationale de musique with Romain Bussine, Alexis de Castillon, Gabriel Fauré, César Franck, Louis Lalo. The society encouraged French music and created works by Saint-Saëns, Chabrier, Debussy, Dukas and Ravel. In 1886, he broke with the Société nationale de musique, because they decided to play foreign composers. In 1901, he was elected president of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Polyglot, he has a taste for travel and travels the continents to give concerts and recitals, attend performances of his works and promote French music and culture. From 1873, he regularly visited Algeria and Egypt. He died in Algiers on December 16, 1921.

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  • Amphithéâtre Olivier Messiaen
  • on 04 October 2024 at 8 pm

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