Saint-Saëns’ “The Carnival of the Animals”: A Zoological Romp

In February of 1886, Camille Saint-Saëns set aside work on his Third Symphony to engage in a brief burst of compositional frivolity. He admitted to his publishers that it was “such fun” he could not resist. The piece in question was The Carnival of the Animals, a humorous musical suite made up of fourteen short, parody-filled movements. Each movement depicts a specific animal and has inspired numerous texts, which include poetry written by …

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Disney’s Debt to Camille Saint-Saëns

Over the weekend, I played Camille Saint-Saëns’ The Carnival of the Animals, the zany chamber orchestra work which has found its way into the children’s canon alongside Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. The suite’s thirteenth movement, The Swan, is surely Saint-Saëns’ most recognizable music, a reality which probably wouldn’t have pleased the French Romanticist. For Saint-Saëns, writing The Carnival of the Animals was lighthearted fun, and perhaps self-therapy, after an unsuccessful …

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Happy Birthday, Yo-Yo Ma

The Listeners’ Club wishes Yo-Yo Ma, who turns 60 today, a happy birthday. Ma is one of a handful of front-rank musicians who can be described as a cultural ambassador. Over the years, he has been at home, not only at Carnegie Hall but also on Sesame Street (watch “The Jam Session,” “The Honker Quartet,” and “Elmo’s Fiddle Lesson”), Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and at a presidential inauguration. At the age of seven he performed for President John F. Kennedy. …

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