9 October 1835 - 16 December 1921 (age 86)

Camille Saint-Saens was not only a composer but a pianist, organist, writer and teacher. Liszt called him the world's greatest organist. His compositions include all genres of music.






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portrait of Saint-Saens


Born: Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns. October 9, 1835 in Paris, France
Father: Jacques Joseph Victor Saint-Saens, died of TB when Camille was 2 months old. Government clerk.
Mother: Clémence Françoise Collin, watercolour artist.
Aunt: Charlotte Masson. Helped bring up Camille. She was his first piano teacher.
Siblings: none
Wife: 1875 he married 19-year-old Marie-Laure TruffotMarie Truffot. Marriage lasted 6 years only.
Children: two sons André and Jean-François.They died in 1878 within six weeks of each other, one from an illness the other by falling from a fourth floor window.

Died December 16, 1921 in Algiers, Algeria
Cause of death: pneumonia
Body returned to France for a state funeral. Buried in Montparnasse cemetery. See findagrave for a photo.


Over 300 works, unusually in all genres, including
- 13 operas (Samson Delilah the only one remembered)
- 5 Symphonies (best known No3 the Organ symphony )
- 3 concertos for violin and orchestra
- 5 concertos for piano and orchestra
- 2 concertos for cello and orchestra
- organ music
- numerous pieces for the piano
- approx 100 songs
- chamber music
- sacred music including a Requiem
numerous transcriptions (Bach especially)

His most popular work is "Carnival of the Animals" the performance of which he forbade during his lifetime, except for "The Swan".

He was also a prolific writer and produced poems, a play, critical essays, and works on science, astronomy, travel and history.


Age 7: studied composition with Pierre Maledin
Age 10: gave his first concert
Age 13: entered the Paris Conservatory to study organ and composition. He was also interested in mathematics, geology, astronomy and was good at languages.
Age 18: Wrote his first symphony.
Age 18-41: organist in various churches including the prestigious Church of the Madeleine
Age 26-30: teacher at École Niedermeyer. Gabriel Fauré was a pupil of his.
Age 36: Founded the Société Nationale de Musique with Romain Bussine to promote French chamber and orchestral music.
Age 39: Wrote Danse Macabre.
Age 40: Married 19 year old Marie Truffot and had two children. Age 46: Left his wife, blaming her carelessness for the death of his children.
Age 51: Wrote Carnival of the Animals while on holiday to entertain some children.
Age 53: His mother died and he became severely depressed, contemplating suicide. He began to travel more, with his dogs and a servant. He travelled to Russia, Britain, South America, the USA. He was particulary fond of North Africa and Egypt.
Age 86: He died of pneumonia in Algeria. His body was returned to Paris for a state funeral.

Danse Macabre


- "There is nothing more difficult than talking about music."

- "The artist who does not feel completely satisfied by elegant lines, by harmonious colors, and by a beautiful succession of chords does not understand the art of music."

- "the closest France has come to producing another Mozart", Faure about Camille

- "If he'd been making shell-cases during the war it might have been better for music."-Maurice Ravel on Camille Saint-Saens

Symphony No. 3 "Organ" - Finale
Orquesta Sinfonica Juvenil de Caracas

Carnival of the Animals - The Swan

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