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Camille Saint-Saëns: Tarantelle, for flute, clarinet and piano op. 6
When he composed this Tarantella in 1857, Camille Saint-Saëns may have been relatively young chronologically but not in his musical evolution.

Extremely precocious child prodigy, Saint-Saëns had already completed three symphonies (among many others) and won first prize in organ at the Paris Conservatory, as well as enjoying the admiration of musicians such as Berlioz, Liszt and Rossini (his first performance in public took place at the age of five, when he accompanied a Beethoven violin sonata on the piano).

It was Rossini, in fact, who launched Tarantelle di Saint-Saëns and won universal acclaim in Paris full of musical cliques, with a shrewd and generous stratagem. Having long since retired from an active opera career, the composer reigned as a great old man in musical Paris, well known for its glittering salon, where he invited Saint-Saëns to present this Tarantella.

“Since there was never a written program for those evenings, Rossini let it be known that the piece was his,” wrote Saint-Saëns long after. “You can imagine the extent of success under such conditions! When the piece was at the encore, Rossini took me into the room and made me sit next to him, taking my hand so that I could not escape. Then came a procession of admirers and courtiers. «Ah, master! What a masterpiece! What wonderful music! " And when they had finished the range of congratulations, Rossini calmly replied: “I completely agree. But the job isn't mine, it's this gentleman's here ”. Such a combination of gentleness and subtlety says more about this great man than many sages ”. 

At that point Saint-Saëns played the part on the piano, with the flutist Louis Dorus and the clarinetist Adolphe Leroy.

The work gained great popularity and in 1879 the composer orchestrated the piano part.

The Tarantella is named after the city of Taranto and the idea was circulating that this lively dance could somehow disperse the toxin from a tarantula's bite, although this theory was well disproved, the dance was really popular in the 19th century, and certainly appreciated for its wild energy.

Tarantelle di Saint-Saëns requires all the athletic virtuosity one could expect from the two wind players, supported by an obstinate and ruthless piano performer.

 

Camille Saint-Saëns

Charles Camille Saint-Saëns (Paris, 9 October 1835 - Algiers, 16 December 1921)

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