Saint-Saëns, Charles Camille shärl kämē´yə´ săN-säNs [key]
, 1835–1921, French composer. A child prodigy, he made his debut as a pianist at 10 and entered the Paris Conservatory in 1848. He was a prolific composer, writing in almost every form, and he was organist at the Madeleine for 20 years. Saint-Saëns is best known for his biblical opera, Samson et Dalila
(1877); other works include the Third Symphony (1886), with organ and piano; the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso
(1863), for violin and orchestra; the piano concertos in G minor (1868) and C minor (1875); and symphonic poems, notably Le Rouet d'Omphale
(1872) and Danse macabre
(1874). His works are marked by unfailing craftsmanship and brilliant orchestration, but they frequently lack imaginative force. He was a champion of instrumental music in France when it was extremely low in popular esteem. In his later years, Saint-Saëns became highly conservative, strenuously opposing modern music.
See his Musical Memories (tr. 1919); biographies by A. Hervey (1921, repr. 1970) and W. Lyle (1923, repr. 1970); J. Harding, Saint-Saëns and His Circle (1965).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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