1835 Born, 9 October 1835, in Paris, the son of a civil servant.
1838 Begins piano lessons. Can already read and write.
1846 Makes concert debut as pianist aged ten.
1848 Enters Paris Conservatory.
1857 Becomes organist at the Magdeleine Church, Paris.
1861 Teaches Gabriel Fauré at music school L`Ecole Niedermeyer.
1871 Co-founds Société Nationale de Musique, for promotion of new French music. Plays for Queen Victoria on his first visit to England.
1875 Weds 19 year old Marie Truffot, but the marriage is a failure.
1886 Philharmonic Society in London commissions the `Organ Symphony`.
1908 Writes his first ever piece of film music, for L`Assassinat du Duc de Guise.
1915 Concert tour of America.
1921 Dies, 16 December.
The Frenchman Camille Saint-Saëns was educated in the German and Viennese classics, from Bach to Mozart and Beethoven. He wrote in all the established forms: opera, oratorio, symphony, concerto and chamber music. Saint-Saëns took himself very seriously as a composer. Yet Gallic charm and joie de vivre constantly rise in his music. It is not surprising that the witty Carnival of the Animals is his best loved work - the one piece he was afraid might damage his reputation.
1863 Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, for violin and orchestra.
1868 Piano Concerto No. 2.
1871 Symphonic poem, Omphale`s Spinning Wheel.
1873 Cello Concerto No. 1; symphonic poem, Phaeton.
1874 Symphonic poem, Danse macabre. Variations on a theme of Beethoven, for two pianos.
1875 Piano Concerto No. 4.
1877 Opera, Samson and Delilah.Violin Concerto No. 3.
1880 Violin Sonata No. 1
1881 Symphony No. 3, `Organ Symphony`;
1886 Carnival of the Animals;
1891 Wedding cake caprice, for piano and strings.
Africa, fantasy for piano and orchestra.
HIS MOST FAMOUS WORK
Carnival of the Animals
Subtitled by Saint-Saëns as a `grand zoological fantasy`, this suite was written for two pianos and a small orchestra. Each section is inspired by different animals, and also wittily parodies other composers` styles , `The Aquarium` and `The Swan` are the best known movements.
HIS PLACE IN HISTORY
Through most of the 19th century, French music was dominated by opera. Composers, French and foreign alike, were drawn to the glittering opera houses of Paris. Saint-Saëns, too, wrote operas, wanting a share of the fame and fortune in that field could bring. But his Classical upbringing and his brilliance as a pianist led him to compose many more symphonies, concertos, symphonic poems, sonatas and chamber works. Such a fine and substantial body of orchestral and instrumental music helped to shift the centre of gravity of French music away from the opera house and towards the concert hall. The way was prepared for such 20th-century masters of orchestral and piano writing as Debussy and Ravel. Saint-Saëns himself lived well into the 20th century. Younger French composers tended to regard him as stuffy and old-fashioned. Despite opinion they owed him a great debt all the same.