Carnival of the Animals
By Camille Saint-Saëns
The French composer Camille Saint-Saëns was prolific and lived a long time, although by the time of his death in 1921 music had changed beyond anything he could have conceived. He was a gifted pianist and, in common with many other well known French composers, found employment and distinction as organist at one of the principal churches in Paris. The popular Carnival of the Animals, described as "A Zoological Fantasy," was written in 1886, originally for two pianos and a small chamber orchestra to celebrate that year's carnival. The composer forbade further performances of this occasional music, except for The Swan, which enjoyed immediate and irresistible popularity. Ma mère l'oye ('Mother Goose') was originally written as a suite of Mother Goose nursery tales for piano duet to entertain the children of Ravel's friend Cipa Godebski. It was orchestrated and extended as a ballet score in 1911, the year after its composition. The suite opens with Sleeping Beauty's Pavane, followed by Hop-o'-my-thumb, with his trail of breadcrumbs leading through the forest. Little Ugly is Empress of tiny oriental insect-musicians. Thereafter Beauty converses with the Beast, and the work ends in a Fairy Garden. By far the best known of the compositions of Dukas is the symphonic scherzo L'apprenti sorcier, ('The Sorcerer's Apprentice'), inspired by Goethe's poem Der Zauberlehrling. The music was later popularised by its inclusion in Walt Disney's Fantasia, with appropriate cartoon illustration. A year before, in 1896, Dukas had completed his only symphony, a work that deserves more attention than it has generally received.