Camille Saint-Sans was considered something of a rarity among French composers of the XIX century, in that he wrote in all genres including symphonies, concertos, operas, songs, etc. Though not considered a pioneer of his time, he did help bring back to life some of the forgotten dance forms, like the gavotte and bourr.
Saint-Sans was born on October 9, 1835, in Paris. He was a very gifted musician, even at a small age. He started taking piano lessons at the age of 2 with his aunt and composed his first work, astonishingly, at the age of 3. He made his concert debut at the age of 10, which included compositions by Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Handel, and Hummel. Besides being talented in music, he also had advanced knowledge in mathematics, languages, etc.
At the age of 13, he entered the Paris Conservatory and studied organ and composition, and by his early 20s, he had won the commendation and support of notable figures of the time, such as Berlioz, Rossini, and others. From 1853 to 1876 he held church organ posts, and he also taught at a school. He composed a lot in his early years, including a Mass (1855), as well as several concertos.
In 1875 he married a 19-year-old girl by the name of Marie Truffot, which was one of the saddest parts of his life. The marriage produced 2 children, but sadly both of them died at the age of 6 weeks, one of them falling from a 4-story building. And soon in 1881 the marriage ended, but very strangely it was in this sad and dark period of life that he composed some of his most well-known works, including Danse Macabre (1875) and Samson and Dalila (1878).
One after another, his mother died in 1888, leading the composer into a year of deep depression so bad that he even had suicidal thoughts.
Oddly, he was very interested in Algeria and Egypt, and even traveled a lot. These countries eventually inspired him into writing Africa (1891), and his Piano Concerto 5, which was called the "Egyptian".
Sadly, in his homeland he and his music were regarded with disdain, but in the United States and England he was considered France's greatest living composer well into the XX century.
The last two decades of his life he was a loner, and died in Algeria, on December 16, 1921.
Music of Camille Saint-Sans Camille Saint-Sans's best-known works include Introduction and Rondo Capricci...