B0554. CAMILLE SAINT-SAňNS. Musical Memories. Trans by Edwin Gile Rich. New York, Da Capo Press, 1969, [Reprint of the Small-Maynard 1919 Edition]. 282pp. Photos.
ďBy the late 1860s Saint-SaŽns was numbered among the top few great living composers, awarded the Lťgion díHonneur at only 33, befriended by the leading musicians of the day and a habituť of the salon of Princesse Mathilde. His private life was not so fortunate. He was 40 when he married the 19-year-old Marie Truffot, sister of one of his pupils. The couple had two children but Saint-SaŽns had little time for family life and in the first three years of his marriage he completed his opera SAMSON ET DALILA, his Piano Concerto #4, the oratorio LE D…LUGE, a suite for orchestra and a symphonic poem, made a visit to Russia (where he became close friends with Tchaikovsky), composed numerous other short works, gave concerts and, in the spring of 1878, returned from Switzerland after writing a Requiem Mass.
His arrival coincided with a terrible tragedy: his two and a half-year-old son Andrť had fallen out of a fourth-floor window and barely six weeks later his second son died suddenly of an infant malady. Three years after that, Saint-SaŽns and his wife were on holiday and the composer one day, without warning, disappeared. Marie Saint-SaŽns never saw her husband again (the couple never divorced) and she died aged nearly 95 in January 1950.
After 1890, he wrote very little of consequence and began to indulge in his passion for foreign travel Ė frequent visits to the Canary Islands and Algeria, and as far afield as Colombo and Saigon where, itís said, he developed a close interest in the natives. As his music became less and less appreciated by the coming generation, he became proportionately more irritable, more outspoken in his condemnation of new music. He was still giving recitals three months before his death (he went on a concert tour of Algiers and Greece at the age of 85). When he announced his retirement in August 1921, he had been before the public for 75 years.Ē
ďI originally choose this book thinking it an autobiography by Saint-SaŽns. It is not quite that. He reveals precious little about his personal life. He mentions almost in passing the influence of his mother and aunt in his life. The book is filled with his thoughts about the great and near great musical personalities of his day. Many of them are unknown to me; I think the dust of time has covered over the significance of some of these people and they would primarily be of interest to scholars doing research on French music of this era. It is amazing who Saint-SaŽns did know and with whom he socialized. He was at ease gliding through high society and even royalty. One does get a strong sense of his high intellect, character, and cultured manners. He writes in a very readable style discussing his own works that were important to him and tells stories about them. He presents chapters devoted to certain personalities who were important to him discussing them personally and their music. Overall I very much enjoyed this book and getting to know Camille Saint-SaŽns better."
- Larry Colsonon