Saint Saëns – The Swan

FP380 Camille Saint Saëns The Swan Two Flutes and Piano Grade 5 2′ 30″

Camille Saint Saëns (1835 – 1921) received his first piano lessons at the age of two and his first composition emerged before his fourth birthday! His childhood was one success after another and as a student of composition at the Paris Conservatoire he won many prizes and wrote his first symphony. He became an eminent organist and was a true renaissance man, being conversant in several sciences and a fine mathematician. He also wrote poetry, a play and a philosophical book.

Today Saint Saëns is remembered mainly for his Organ Symphony. There are also some concertos for piano, violin and cello still frequently performed. However, his most popular work is The Carnival of the Animals, dating from 1886, of which The Swan is the thirteenth movement. The piece is also closely associated with Anna Pavlova’s portrayal in 1905 of The Dying Swan.

The Swan, in a gentle 6/4 time, is originally scored for two pianos and cello. This FlutePlay version retains the keyboard character of rippling semiquavers, with a few small modifications to make up for the missing second piano. In addition to the original melody, the flutes use opportunities for melodic imitation and overlaying phrase ends to enhance the sonority and sense of smooth gliding.

The main difficulty in flute performance, not surprisingly considering the style, is in controlling the phrasal shapes and supporting the lines without breathing too frequently. Moreover, to keep the flow, some phrasal coalescence is desirable, which is what the original cello would have done as a matter of course, and this is suggested in the score.

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