What We're Listening To: Camille Saint-Saëns "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso"
Camille Saint-Saëns was born in Paris on October 9, 1835. He was considered to be a musical prodigy, displaying perfect pitch and an ability to pick out tunes on the piano at age three. He gave his first public performance at the age of ten, playing works such as Mozart’s Piano Concerto in B-flat and Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto. At thirteen, he was admitted into the Paris Conservatoire to study organ and composition. Upon leaving the Conservatory, he worked as a church organist and taught piano at the École de Musique Classique et Religieuse (School of Classical and Religious Music). He is best known for his five piano concertos, two cello concertos, three violin concertos, three symphonies, his opera Samson et Dalila, and his symphonic poem Danse Macabre.
One of his best known works is Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, a concertante work for violin and orchestra in the key of A minor. This piece was written for Pablo de Sarasate, a Spanish violin virtuoso and composer. Like Saint-Saëns, Sarasate showed musical talent early on in his life, and his compositions were violin showpieces for him to exhibit his exemplary technique. Saint-Saëns also constructed this piece to show off Sarasate’s virtuosity, making use of arpeggios, chromatic scales, and thirty-second notes.
Itzhak Perlman performs this piece wonderfully. The Israeli-American violinist studied with Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School, and has performed with other prolific musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma, Isaac Stern, and Pinchas Zukerman. His performances have led him to venues such as Carnegie Hall and the White House, and has taught violin and conducted orchestras as well.