Saint-Saens: Camille. Sheet Music and Biography

By | April 8, 2021

Saint-Saens Sheet Music

9 Oct 1835 – 16 Dec 1921

Camille Saint-Saens (pronounced ‘San-Sohn(ce)) was born in Paris in 1835. A gifted pianist, organist and composer and a writer of criticism, poetry and essays.

He was well known for Danse Macabre which is on the site including part 1 for Piano Duet as well as part 2 a difficult piece to play. We also have arranged the theme for a number of different instruments. We also have the full set arranged for piano of Le Carnaval des Animaux series plus Le Cygne (No. 13) arranged for over 24 different instrument versions.

Early Life and Family

His father was a minister in the French Ministry of Interior, however, he died when Camille was barely two months old, so he was initially raised by a nurse in the country then returned to Paris to be with his mother and aunt who taught him, him first piano.

He was a child prodigy displaying perfect pitch at the age of two, this was carefully controlled by his aunt giving only occasional performances as she held concerns of him becoming too famous to soon. He gave his first public concert at the age of five accompanying a Beethoven violin sonata on the piano and his first recital when he was eleven.


He was academically bright and studied organ and composition at the Paris Conservatoire and went on to win many prizes. At that time pianists, (even the most talented) were encouraged to study the organ as the career opportunities were considered more advantageous. During this time he became acquainted with Franz Liszt who became a very good friend.

His first post on leaving the Conservatoire was at the church of St Merri with around 26,000 parishioners and over two hundred weddings a year, this provided Saint-Saens with quite an agreeable income. In 1857 he became the organist at the high profile Church of Madeline a relationship lasting twenty years after which he became a freelance pianist and composer popular in both Europe and America. Between 1861 and 1865 he became a teacher at Niedermeyer School his students include Gabriel Fauré who was very much influenced by him as was his student Joseph Maurice Ravel.

In 1871 after serving in the National Guard during the Franco Prussian War he escaped to England during the brief Paris Commune whilst his superior at Church of Madeline was murdered. He returned to Paris later that same year

In 1874 he wrote Danse Macabre which became one of this most frequently played works.

Despite the initial controversy of his opera Samson et Delilah in 1877 then banned in France due to the forbidden portrayal of biblical characters on stage. It became his most popular opera after finally being performed in Paris in 1890.

In 1886 he dedicated his Symphony No. 3 to Liszt who died that year. In that same year he wrote La Carnaval des Animaux.

Other Facts….

At the age of seven, his piano teacher called for all students to adopt the method of playing whilst resting their forearms on a bar located in front of the keyboard. This resulted in all power coming from the hands and fingers and not the arms. Saint-Saens later wrote that his training was very beneficial.

Saint-Saens had a brilliant mind that was not restricted to music. As well as producing various academic articles about acoustics he had a good knowledge of maths, geology, botany and butterflies.

He married a nineteen year old Marie Laure Emile Truffot when he was forty. However, the relationship ended tragically as both their sons died within six weeks of each other, one from illness and the other fell from a window. Saint-Saens blamed his wife for this and the relationship ended although they never divorced.

Saint-Saens Sheet Music Downloads and Further Reading

On we have nearly seventy arrangements of Saint-Saens music including various instrumental versions of Danse Macabre and La Carnaval des Animaux all in PDF format.

For further reading on this composer why not take a look at Wikipedia and Britannica.

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