This weekend we took the boys to Severance Hall to see Saint-Saëns’ “The Carnival of the Animals.” Even with the crying babies and restless children, Charles Bernard’s cello solo during “The Swan” was so beautiful one of the Labèque sisters even re-gifted her bouquet of flowers to him after the performance.
I love the story behind the music:
In 1886, the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, licking his wounds after an unhappy concert tour and balking at completing his majestic Third Symphony, retreated to an Austrian village to write “Carnival of the Animals.” The suite of instrumental miniatures playfully evokes a menagerie of creatures, while also poking wry fun at the music of its day. The piece delighted the small circle of friends who heard it, but Saint-Saëns, fearing for his serious reputation, forbade its publication until after his death.
The one piece from the suite he did okay for publication during his life, in 1887, was “The Swan,” in an arrangement for piano and cello. Here’s a performance by Yo-Yo Ma & Kathryn Scott: