Brian Rees Camille Saint-SaŽns: A Life

ISBN 13: 9780571243129

Camille Saint-SaŽns: A Life

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9780571243129: Camille Saint-SaŽns: A Life
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Camille Saint-Saëns began as a child prodigy and was acclaimed in his lifetime as the incarnation of French genius. His was one of the longest careers in musical history, stretching from the traditions of Beethoven to the innovations of the twentieth century, including one of the earliest film scores. As a virtuoso pianist he achieved international fame, while Liszt proclaimed him the world's greatest organist. A prolific composer, there is much more to him than his best-known work, the witty Carnival of the Animals, of which he forbade performances in his lifetime. Among his most notable achievements are the opera Samson et Delila and the Organ Symphony, while the Danse Macabre, second piano concerto and first cello concerto remain much loved. As a young man, he supported the 'new music' of Liszt, Wagner and Berlioz and introduced the symphonic poem into French music. He championed an up-and-coming generation of French composers, most notably Fauré, and played a unique part in transforming French taste from grand opera and operetta to the classical forms of symphony and chamber music, at the same time reviving interest in the music of Bach and Rameau. His personal life was combative, tragic and surrounded by rumour: as a boy during the Revolution of 1848, serving as a National Guard in the war of 1870, and eventually becoming something of an icon of the Third Republic, used in diplomacy as a symbol of French culture. This fascinating book (Chatto & Windus 1999) places his long and controversial career in a turbulent period when music, no less than politics, was undergoing sensational and often stormy change.

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Review:

Reputations are made and altered whimsically and sometimes unfairly; we remember composer Camille Saint-Saens more for the frivolous Carnival of the Animalswhich he reserved as much for private performance as for the philosophical cantatas, monumental organ works and grand operas on which his sense of himself depended. He was a delicate child prodigy, whose performances of Mozart were much admired; he was a friend and advocate of Liszt who lived to denounce Debussy, Strauss and Stravinsky as prophets of musical chaos.

Brian Rees's thorough Life tries ill-judgedly to defend those areas of Saint-Saens' music criticism which are indefensibly thoughtless; it is the hard-won pluralism of late 20th-century music which makes us value Saint-Saens once again, rather than any attempt to turn the clock back to 1870 or 1910. He was a superb miniaturist, a gifted virtuoso with a sense of what others might perform--Rees is good on his generosity and commitment to keeping the music of the past fresh, while making innovations that both public and performers could follow. His account of Saint-Saens in his time is intelligent; this is music which had the intellectual strength, as well as the occasional superficial pretentiousness, of his bourgeois republicanism. --Roz Kaveney

About the Author:

Brian Rees was born in Sydney, Australia, but educated at the Bede Grammar School, Sunderland. He was a Scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge, and as a History Master at Eton College, he collaborated with the satirist, the late John Wells, on a musical version of Aristophanes' Birds. He has been Headmaster of three public schools: Merchant Taylors', Charterhouse, and Rugby, and is the biographer of Sir Edward German and editor of the papers of Sir Robert Birley. He now lives in the village of Flore in Northamptonshire."

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9781856197731: Saint Saens

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ISBN 10:  1856197735 ISBN 13:  9781856197731
Publisher: Chatto & Windus, 1999
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Book Description FABER & FABER, United Kingdom, 2013. Paperback. Condition: New. Main. Language: English. Brand new Book. Camille Saint-Saens was a child prodigy who grew to be acclaimed in his lifetime as the incarnation of French genius: a virtuoso pianist, also declared by Liszt to be the world's greatest organist. His best-known work was the witty Carnival of the Animals, but no less remarkable were the opera Samson et Delila and the Organ Symphony, while the Danse Macabre, Piano Concerto no. 2 and Cello Concerto no. 1 remain much loved. Saint-Saens championed up-and-coming French composers, notably Faure, and played a unique part in transforming his country's musical taste. His personal life was dramatic: a boy during the Revolution of 1848, he served as a National Guard in the War of 1870, eventually becoming something of an icon of the Third Republic. 'Lucid and thorough. Adroitly balancing varying opinions about Saint-Saens' life and work, Rees presents an even-handed assessment of his achievements, examining the music in detail and demonstrating that it is imbued with individuality.' Publishers Weekly. Seller Inventory # AAZ9780571243129

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