We can all be guilty of procrastinating and wasting time. We might doodle, spend too much time on our phones or iPads, or watch television. But how does a genius procrastinate? They compose a funny piece of course!
When the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns was supposed to be working on his very serious third symphony, he took a break to compose Carnival of the Animals!
Saint-Saëns wrote Carnival of the Animals as a humorous piece, but did not want it published until after his death, as he did not want to ruin his reputation as a serious composer. Today it is among one of his most famous works!
The Carnival of the Animals consists of 14 movements, each movement dedicated to depicting a different animal, from lions and elephants to cuckoos and donkeys. Saint-Saëns even makes fun of his own kind, and has a movement called “Pianists”, featuring warm up scales at first played clumsily like a beginner, progressing to virtuoso playing!
This piece not only brings to life an array of animals and the way they move and sound, it is also makes some rather sophisticated musical jokes. Throughout some of the movements, Saint-Saëns quotes many famous musical works – for example, a slowed down version of Offenbach’s Can-can to depict the humble tortoise!
Finale of Carnival of the Animals
arranged for Piano Four Hands
The piece is written for two pianos and a small ensemble of instruments. The version I’m sharing today is arranged for two pianos. We are going to listen to the final movement, which recaps some of the animals heard throughout the piece.
Who was Camille Saint-Saëns?
Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) was a French composer, organist, pianist and conductor. He showed enormous musical talent as a child, and gave his first concert at the age of ten. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire. He was heralded as genius by his pupil Gabriel Faure, and French composer Maurice Ravel.
How fitting that this week Charlie has prepared a piece called Waltzing Elephants! Well done on all your hard work Charlie, fantastic playing!
Calling all subscribers, if you would like to share your playing please let me know. I’d love to feature it here.