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CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Marche écossaise sur un thème populaire Debussy was a struggling young artist in 1890, so when an American general with Scottish heritage approached him with a commission, the young composer was all in. Legend has it that Debussy and General John Meredith Read met in one of Debussy’s favorite cafés. Problem was, General Read didn’t speak French nor Debussy English. So the writer Alphonse Allais acted as translator (the fact that Read served as US consul general in France makes this account seem unlikely). As a descendant of the ancient counts of Ross, Read knew of a Scottish melody played by pipers before battle. He wanted Debussy to compose a March. Debussy eagerly accepted the commission and composed a colorful four-hand March. Debussy was able to get even more money out of this occasional work when he orchestrated it a few years later.

DID YOU KNOW? For the 1949 Columbia Masterworks recording of Carnival of the Animals Ogden Nash wrote humorous verses to accompany each movement.

Saint-Saëns just needed to have some fun. After a disastrous concert tour through Germany in 1885, and with the commission of his Third Symphony on his desk, the composer needed some stress relief. With Shrovetide season in full swing, Saint-Saëns decided to let various animals join the carnival festivities. The private performance on Shrove Tuesday was so successful that another private performance was scheduled four weeks later; one of the attendees was Franz Liszt. Despite pleadings from Liszt and others, Saint-Saëns forbade all public performances, and the score was not to be published until after his death (hence the 1922 first public performance). Presumably, Saint-Saëns was worried about his image. Composed for eleven instruments—including the rather rare use of the glass harmonica—Saint-Saëns showcases his mastery at imaginative instrumentation in order to capture animals through sound. But the music goes beyond vivid depictions of various animals. Saint-Saëns created musical caricatures: for example, the Tortoise dances the “Can-Can” from Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus and the Elephant moves to Berlioz’s delicate “Dance of the Sylphs” and Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from Midsummer Night’s Dream. The composer even parodied himself in a mechanical version of his own Danse Macabre presented by the Fossils. And, of course, there are the rarest of animals, the Pianists. Obviously, Liszt enjoyed Saint-Saëns’s wittiness, and was surely sad that the world had to wait for such a long time to hear one of Saint-Saëns’s most creative scores. - Siegwart Reichwald

Saint-Saëns just needed to have some fun… Composed for eleven instruments…Saint-Saëns showcases his mastery at imaginative instrumentation in order to capture animals through sound. – Siegwart Reichwald

2019 Summer Institute & Festival

CHAMBER

CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) Carnival of the Animals Premiered privately on Shrove Tuesday, March 9, 1886. The first public performance took place February 25, 1922 in Paris under the direction of Édouard Colonne.

JULY 15

their “frightening virtuosity.” He wrote, “Abroad we take jazz seriously. It is influencing our work. The Blues in my sonata, par example, is stylized jazz, more French than American in character perhaps, but nevertheless influenced strongly by your so-called ‘popular music.’” It would take Ravel over four years (1923-27) to complete his Violin Sonata—far longer than any other work.

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Profile for Brevard Music Center

2019 BMC Overture Magazine  

The seasonal publication for the annual Brevard Music Center Summer Festival. Overture includes all festival programming and program notes,...

2019 BMC Overture Magazine  

The seasonal publication for the annual Brevard Music Center Summer Festival. Overture includes all festival programming and program notes,...