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  • Chris Anderson

Carnival Of The Animals

Our composer of the month is Camille Saint-Saëns and today we look at one of his most popular works - The Carnival Of The Animals. It is a musical suite composed in 1886. The suite is comprised of 14 short movements, each of which represents a different animal or group of animals.

Each movement is characterised by its playful and whimsical musical portrayal of the respective animal or scene it represents. "The Carnival of the Animals" is known for its humour and charm and is often performed in a concert setting. The movements are as follows:

  • Introduction and Royal March of the Lion: This movement sets the tone for the suite with a majestic and regal march, representing the king of the animal kingdom, the lion.

  • Hens and Roosters: This movement features playful, clucking motifs in the strings and woodwinds to depict hens and roosters going about their daily activities.

  • Wild Donkeys Swift Animals: Here, Saint-Saëns uses rapid piano passages to evoke the image of wild, galloping donkeys.

  • Tortoises: The music slows down considerably in this movement to mimic the slow and deliberate movement of tortoises. The pianos play a humorous, plodding melody.

  • The Elephant: A double bass solo represents the lumbering gait of an elephant. It's a humorous and ponderous movement.

  • Kangaroos: Saint-Saëns uses rapid leaps in the music to imitate the hopping of kangaroos.

  • Aquarium: This movement is tranquil and ethereal, evoking an underwater scene with shimmering piano and delicate orchestration.

  • Characters with Long Ears (People with Long Ears): Here, Saint-Saëns humorously portrays donkeys through braying sounds in the clarinet and piano.

  • The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods: This movement features a solo clarinet imitating the call of a cuckoo bird in a serene forest setting.

  • Aviary: The orchestra imitates the sounds of various birds, creating a lively and animated atmosphere.

  • Pianists (Fossils): This movement is a playful depiction of ancient fossils. Saint-Saëns incorporates musical fragments from his earlier compositions and uses xylophone and other percussive instruments to create a prehistoric atmosphere.

  • The Swan: "The Swan" is one of the most famous and serene movements of the suite. It features a solo cello playing a beautiful melody to evoke the graceful glide of a swan on a peaceful lake.

  • Finale: The suite concludes with a lively and triumphant finale that brings together musical themes from earlier movements, creating a festive and celebratory atmosphere.

It's worth noting that Saint-Saëns originally composed this piece as a humorous work for a private performance. He did not want it to be published or performed publicly during his lifetime because he thought it might damage his reputation as a serious composer. However, after his death, it was discovered, and it has since become one of his most beloved compositions, frequently performed in concert halls around the world.

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