Saint-Saens, Camille

Camille Saint-Saens is well known for his symphonic poetry, which became the first of their kind composed by a Frenchman, and his opera Samson et Dalila. Saint-Saens was a talented pianist and organist and a critic, author, essayist, and playwright who was known for his innovative activities on behalf of French music. His Symphony No. 3 (Organ) is the most often played of his concerti and symphonies, in which he applied Franz Liszt's virtuosity to French traditions of harmony and structure. Saint-Saens, a child prodigy on the piano, gave his first recital in 1846. At the Paris Conservatory, he learned organ and composition, and his Symphony No. 1 was premiered in 1855. In 1857, he was named organist at Paris's famous Church of the Madeleine, which he held for the next 20 years. He met Liszt during this period and developed a lasting relationship with him, who described him as the world's best organist. From 1861 to 1865, he taught piano at the Niedermeyer School, where Gabriel Fauré and André Messager were among them.

He helped found the National Society of Music in 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War, to encourage performances of the following century's most essential French orchestral works. In the same year, he composed Le Rouet d'Omphale (Omphale's Spinning Wheel), his first symphonic poem, which, along with Danse macabre, is the most frequently performed of his four such pieces. On Liszt's advice, his opera Samson et Dalila was staged in German in Weimar in 1877 after being dismissed in Paris due to discrimination towards playing biblical characters on stage. It was eventually produced at the Théâtre Eden in Paris in 1890, and it went on to become his most famous opera.


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