This month Bridget Mermikides arranges and transcribes a fantastic piece by a brilliant composer never before featured in our Classical series.
Charles-Camille saint-saëns (1835-1921) was a French childhood prodigy, composer, pianist, organist and conductor, who composed a dozen operas and many other well respected works including piano concertos, cello concertos, orchestral, solo piano, chamber and vocal pieces. he was also a highly regarded music teacher whose students included Gabriel Fauré (whose amazing Pavane i arranged in Gt203), and whose student in turn was none other than maurice ravel (Gt198), and so Saint-Saëns stands as a leading figure in French romanticism.
here i’ve selected a piece from his ever popular Carnival Of the animals. Composed in 1886, this 14-movement work was only intended as a piece of fun and - as saint-saëns wrote - a whimsical distraction from when he should have been writing his third symphony. each movement represents a different animal – or group of animals – and is full of humour, clever musical allusions to other works and infectious fun and ingenuity. since saint-saëns didn’t compose the set with public performance aspirations, the instrumentation of the whole set – which differs between movements and uses some unusual combinations - is not particularly practical, and so a large number of arrangements and reworkings exist. Despite its ad hoc and unambitious nature, the set of works (both individually and collectively) remains very popular and well-known to this day.
here i’ve arranged movement 7, the beguiling aquarium which depicts a mesmerising lit aquarium of tropical fish. It was originally scored for the unusual ensemble of flute, two pianos, violin, viola, cello and the glass harmonica (an amazing sounding instrument which can be thought of as a sort of mechanised way of playing multiple tuned wine glasses), but various arrangements exist (including orchestral, solo piano and an extraordinary surf guitar version by Dick Dale of miserlou fame). the