Both the prelude and postlude are by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), a French composer who, according to one source, was the most remarkable child prodigy in history (even more so than Mozart). Saint-Saëns entered the Paris Conservatoire at the young age of 13 and distinguished himself admirably by winning the Premier Prix for organ at age 16. While he is perhaps most famously known for his Le carnaval des animaux (The carnival of the animals), composed for a private concert on Shrove Tuesday in 1886, Saint-Saëns was one of the foremost organ virtuosi of his time. He was the organist at La Madeleine, a very prominent Parisian church, and also composed a brilliant “organ symphony” featuring the organ in an orchestral context. Amusingly, the theme of this grand symphony was later used in the movie Babe as the theme music.
Though falling within the Romantic period of Classical Music, Saint-Saëns upheld strong ideals of structure and form that hearkened back to the Classical period and even the Baroque. Toward the end of his career, more progressive composers like Stravinsky were writing music that made Saint-Saëns look old fashioned, and not unjustly so. He didn’t appreciate much of the new music and its lack of classical form and even went so far as to assert that Stravinsky was insane! As with many prodigies, Saint-Saëns was seen by some as more of a disappointment in his professional career when compared to his early signs of genius. In the end, however, Saint-Saëns saw himself as the vanguard of a lost era and, in his last years, would place flowers before a statue of himself, bowing deeply. This composer’s organ pieces that I will play on Sunday are beautiful examples of his classical style. They have, to me, a warm and enthusiastic character that, along with Sunday’s hymns, ties in beautifully with the spirit of Laetare Sunday.
This Wednesday, you are invited to attend our fourth Lenten noonday concert. Bella Voce, Mobile’s own women’s chorus, will present a varied and interesting program! Please come support them and enjoy a musical treat in the middle of your week.