Camille Saint-Saëns

Carnival of the Animals, zoological fantasy for 2 pianos & ensemble

    Description by Joseph Stevenson

    In 1885 Saint-Saëns wrote a witty, uncomplicated piece called Wedding Cake (1885), which to his chagrin became so popular that he gained a temporary reputation as a "light" composer. Because he wanted to be considered a composer of serious, substantial music, he suppressed Carnival of the Animals shortly after its premiere in the following year. However, this "zoological fantasy," one of the most successful examples of humourously themed music in the repertory, has become one of the composer's most popular works. Carnival of the Animals, cast as a suite of 14 short pieces, is scored for an ensemble comprising two pianos, two violins, viola, cello, double bass, flute, clarinet, and glockenspiel.

    The work begins with a roar from the two pianos and low strings, an appropriate introduction to the "Royal March of the Lions." The crowing and pecking of strings effectively evokes the clamor of hens and roosters, while the depiction of tortoises takes the form of a sly musical joke: a drastically slowed-down version of the famous can-can from Offenbach's Orphée aux Enfers (1858). Saint-Saëns continues to parody his countrymen when he uses the "Waltz of the Sylphs" from Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust (1846) in depicting elephants. Graceful and rapid leaps on the keyboard naturally describe kangaroos. Liquid, rippling sounds on the piano and a magical, serene melody characterize one of the loveliest sections of the work, a sound portrait of an aquarium. Sliding string figures give voice to mules, whose braying is sharply contrasted with the deeply mysterious beauty of the clarinet in its imitation of a cuckoo. This single bird becomes an entire aviary aflutter with airy flute solos and rapid keyboard passagework. Saint-Saëns admits pianists themselves into the menagerie, good-naturedly mocking their hours of practice with a passage that unfolds as a ponderous keyboard exercise. "Fossils" pays homage to those creatures which have suffered extinction with the suggestion of rattling bones in the xylophone, including a quotation from the composer's own Danse macabre (1874). This is followed by the most famous movement, one so lovely that the composer permitted its publication as a solo work. "The Swan" has become a staple of every cellist's repertoire and a favorite accompaniment for dance works. The brisk finale includes a spirited, exuberant reprise of all of the animals' themes.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Introduction and royal march of the lion
    2. Cocks and hens
    3. Wild asses
    4. Tortoises
    5. Elephants
    6. Kangaroos
    7. Aquarium
    8. People with long ears
    9. Cuckoo in the heart of the woods
    10. Aviary
    11. Pianists
    12. Fossils
    13. The swan
    14. Finale

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Erato 557140
    2016 Chandos CHSA 5162
    2015 Beau Fleuve Records 610708094999
    2015 Erato
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon B002364402
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646129607
    2014 Naxos 857828182
    2014 RCA Red Seal 88843003502
    2014 Warner Classics 2564631220
    2014 Nimbus Alliance NIM 6274
    2014 Christophorus CHE 01962
    2014 Brilliant Classics 94881
    2013 Sony Classical 88883769482
    2013 Entertainment Group 14183
    2013 Organ Historical Society OHS 05
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099995566
    2012 Entertainment Group 4005
    2012 Supraphon SU 40822
    2012 Warner Classics
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099960231
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 Maestro Classics / Music Design SSD 1013
    2012 ABC Classics 344862
    2012 Concerto / Zebralution
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099991762
    2011 San Francisco Symphony SDS 1001
    2011 Netmark NEMACD 600
    2011 Decca
    2011 Decca 4782746
    2011 Decca
    2011 EMI Classics
    2011 Warner Classics 2564671859
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099964850
    2010 Divine Art 24146
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099968582
    2010 BD Jazz / Zebralution
    2010 EMI Classics / EMI Classics / Warner Classics 50999906820
    2010 ZYX 1109
    2010 Decca
    2010 Mirare 108
    2010 EMI Classics
    2009 Sony Classical 752307
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 459217
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 415350
    2008 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 724382668725
    2008 Sony Music Distribution 1009
    2008 Ars Produktion 38038
    2008 CAvi-music 8553100
    2008 Sony Classical Essential Classics 731846
    2007 Amado Classics 4000
    2007 Vista Vera 96009
    2007 Music@Menlo LIVE MML 012
    2007 Apex
    2007 Regis Records 1262
    2007 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946382233
    2007 Raven 900
    2006 EMI Classics
    2006 Querstand 0222
    2006 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 41428
    2006 Arte Nova 378570
    2005 EtCetera Records 1266
    2005 Parlophone
    2005 EMI Classics 683542
    2005 Erato
    2005 Virgin Classics 62497
    2005 Apex 4621252
    2004 St. Clair 43912
    2004 DRG 19064
    2004 ASV / Resonance / Sanctuary Records 3027
    2004 RCA Victor 82876623572
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000100002
    2003 Platinum Entertainment 2700
    2003 Sony Classical 87277
    2003 Vox 3607
    2003 Erato / Virgin Classics 7243545603
    2003 Classical Express 3951472
    2002 Challenge Classics CC72104
    2002 CBC Records 1089
    2002 Vox / Vox Allegretto 8219
    2002 Decca 473185
    2001 St. Clair 7373
    2001 Andante 2986-2989
    2001 Unesco 70720
    2001 St. Clair 7381
    2001 Decca 467470
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 763157
    2001 Virgin 59514
    2001 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 5 74947-2
    2000 Fine Tune 4402
    2000 Platinum Disc 1132
    2000 Basic 050
    2000 Koch Classics 36579
    2000 Compendia Music Group / Intersound 3770
    2000 Sonatina 531
    2000 Pan 510106
    2000 Harmonia Mundi 1951472
    1999 Herald Records HAVPCD233
    1999 Platinum Disc 1122
    1999 Decca 458595
    1999 Eclipse Music Group / Eclipse Records 535
    1999 Capriccio Records 10836
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 69605
    1998 Sony Classical SMK-60175
    1998 Platinum Disc / Platinum Entertainment 1061
    1998 Virgin 61516
    1998 Intersound 2845
    1998 Avid 601
    1998 Naxos 8 554463
    1998 Arte Nova 37857
    1998 IMP Classics 660001
    1997 Dutton Laboratories 1002
    1997 Harmonia Mundi 926019
    1997 Telarc Distribution 80443
    1997 Biddulph Recordings 012
    1997 Point Classics 267029
    1996 Testament 1071
    1996 Naxos 550499
    1996 Sony Music Distribution 62638
    1996 Carlton 6900082
    1996 Globe 5152
    1996 Harmonia Mundi 7901472
    1995 Seraphim UK 568525
    1995 Gallo 527
    1995 RCA / RCA Victor 68131
    1995 Philips 446557
    1995 Philips
    1995 Kuck Kuck / Kuckuck 12102
    1995 Erato / Virgin 7243561137
    1995 Teldec 97445
    1995 Decca 4445522
    1995 Intersound 3816
    1994 Sony Music Distribution 64079
    1994 RCA 62563
    1994 Infinity Digital 57234
    1994 Classical Gold 075
    1994 Encore Recordings 68120
    1994 Philips 442 608-2PM2
    1994 Decca
    1994 ASV / ASV/Living Era ASQ 6124
    1993 Sony Music Distribution 47596
    1993 Telarc Distribution 80350
    1993 Deutsche Grammophon 439648
    1993 Philips 4168412
    1993 Chandos 9246
    1993 ASV 665
    1992 Naxos 550335
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 47655
    1992 Erato 45772
    1992 Arabesque 6570
    1992 Intersound 2097
    1991 Sony Classical SFK-46712
    1991 RCA / RCA Victor 67182
    1991 London 430720
    1991 EMI Music Distribution 4086
    1990 Philips 400016
    1988 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0777769112
    1988 ASV / ASV/Living Era 6017
    1986 CBS Records 37765
    1986 London 414460
    EMI Music Distribution
    Gemini 622
    ABC Classics 4783686
    Naxos 565004
    Erato 92880
    Deutsche Grammophon 415351
    London 436105
    Royal Philharmonic Masterworks 28450
    EMI 63177
    Forlane 16608
    Erato 55044
    Pilz 6015
    Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 276
    Erasmus 99
    Dove Audio 30700
    Erasmus 1
    Pickwick 11026
    Mastersound 17
    EXL 4290
    Russian Revelation 10014
    Amado Classics 04028
    Philips 135371
    Masters of the Millennium 2020
    Klavier Records 11011
    EMI Music Distribution 74753
    Erato 0630-18971-2
    Excelsior Recordings 24290
    Apollo Music 349
    Denon Records 73534
    RFCM Symphony Orchestra
    Point 268924
    Lyrinx 2258
    Bergonzi String Quartet
    BMG Classics / RCA 68483