Camille Saint-Saëns

2 01 2012

Esta música é tão divertida. Camille Saint-Saens, Le carnaval des animaux.

1. No. 1. Introduction & Royal March of the Lion (strings and two pianos). The introduction begins with the pianos playing a bold tremolo, under which the strings enter with a stately theme (this section reminds one of the agitation one experiences when something stupendous is about to happen, in this situation, the appearance of a circus parade, perhaps). The pianos play a pair of scales going in opposite directions to conclude the first part of the movement. The pianos then introduce a march theme that they carry through most of the rest of the introduction. The strings provide the melody, with the pianos occasionally taking low runs of octaves or high ostinatos suggesting the roars of the lions. The movement ends with a fortissimo note from all the instruments used in this movement.

2. No. 2. Hens & Roosters (strings without double-bass, two pianos and clarinet). This movement is centered around a pecking theme played in the pianos and strings, quite reminiscent of chickens pecking at grain. The clarinet plays small solos above the rest of the players at intervals. In the middle of the section, you can almost see a rooster marching along the rows of hens who nervously run around him.

3. No. 3. Wild Asses (two pianos). The animals depicted here are quite obviously running, an image induced by the constant, feverishly fast up-and-down motion of both pianos playing scales in octaves.

4. No. 4. Tortoises (strings and piano). A slightly satirical movement which opens with a piano playing a pulsing triplet figure in the higher register. The strings then play a maddeningly slow (so slow, in fact, that it begins to sound like a dramatic lament) rendition of the famous “Can-Can” from Offenbach’s “Orpheus”.

5. No. 5. The Elephant (double-bass and piano). This section is marked Allegro Pomposo, the perfect caricature for an elephant. The piano plays a waltz-like triplet figure while the bass hums the melody beneath it. Like the previous movement, this is also a musical joke: the thematic material is taken from Felix Mendelssohn’s “Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Hector Berlioz’s “Dance of the Silphs”. The two themes were both originally written for high, lighter-toned instruments (flute and various other woodwinds, and violin, accordingly); the joke is that Saint-Saens moves this to the lowest and heaviest-sounding instrument in the orchestra, the double bass.

6. No. 6. The Kangaroos (two pianos). The main figure here is a pattern of “hopping” fifths preceded by grace notes.

7. No. 7. The Aquarium (strings without double-bass, two pianos, flute and glass harmonica). The melody is played by the flute, backed by the strings, on top of tumultuous, glissando like runs in the piano. The first piano plays a descending ten-on-one ostinato, while the second plays a six-on-one. These figures, plus the occasional glissando from the harmonica are evocative of a peaceful, dimly-lit aquarium.


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