“The Carnival of the Animals” – Saint-Saëns/Nash/Disney

by richibi

in the same spirit of “music as literature” as in
Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage“, or Mussorgsky‘s
Pictures at an Exhibition especially, Camille
Saint-Saëns, composed his Le carnaval des
through an anthropomorphised menagerie 
where the description is impressionistic rather
than narrative, which is to say more painterly
 
he composes in patches of musical textures
instead of melodic and linear paragraphs,
incompatible with the original association
of music as melody, or song, one’s response
would become thereby more intellectual
than emotional, one does not swoon, or
even sway, in other words, as marvel at the
synesthetic imagination, which lets you see
sounds and hear pictures
 
you’ll hear here, or “hear, hear”, the turtles
doing their determined interpretation of the 
can-can, at an improbable crawl, in playful
reference to Offenbach‘s “Galop infernal”,
mad gallop, from his Orpheus in the  
Underworld, other such instances of 
compositional salutations follow, not at
all an unusual practice among composers,
great and small 
 
you’ll be enchanted by the shimmering
ethereality of the aquarium, by the grace
and majesty of the now mythic swan,
among other zoological bedazzlements, 
in 14 movements, in therefore essentially
a symphony, a piece for orchestra with
several movements
 
here they are        
I.      Introduction et marche royale du Lion
               (Introduction and Royal March of the Lion)
II.     Poules et Coqs 
               (Hens and Cocks)
III.    Hémiones (animaux véloces) 
               (Wild Asses)
IV.   Tortues
                (Tortoises)
V.     L’Éléphant 
                (The Elephant)
VI.    Kangourous 
                (Kangaroos)
VII.   Aquarium
VIII.  Personnages à longues oreilles
                (Personages with Long Ears)
IX.    Le coucou au fond des bois 
                (The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods)
X.     Volière
                (Aviary)
XI.    Pianistes
                (Pianists)
XII.   Fossiles
                (Fossils)
XIII.  Le Cygne
                (The Swan)
XIV.  Finale
 
 
you’ll want to read the poems that Ogden 
Nash later wrote about them, his very own
Carnival of the Animals“, that now often
accompany the piece, a mistake, I find, for
exposing two entirely idiosyncratic and 
incompatible sensibilities opposite each
other, thereby taking away from each 
 
but Walt Disney has, and you will too have,
a great deal of fun nevertheless with both
of them, though they’re somewhat in his
version abridged, no swan 
 
 
Richard
 
 
 
 
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