Saint-Saëns Aquar­ium

This month Brid­get Mer­mikides ar­ranges and tran­scribes a fan­tas­tic piece by a bril­liant com­poser never be­fore fea­tured in our Clas­si­cal se­ries.

Guitar Techniques - - PLAY: CLASSICAL -

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

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns

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