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The History of Carnival of the Animals

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

The Carnival of the Animals (Le Carnaval des animaux) is a humorous musical suite of fourteen movements by the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. It was composed in February 1886 and meant to be a fun piece, a zoological fantasy. The suite was published in 1922, the year after his death.

It was often performed with the musicians wearing masks of the heads of the various animals they represented. It was not published during Saint-Saëns' lifetime. He was adamant that the work would not be published in his lifetime, seeing it as detracting from his "serious" composer image. He relented only for the famous cello solo The Swan, which forms the penultimate movement of the work, and which was published in 1887 in an arrangement by the composer for cello and solo piano.

Saint-Saëns specified in his will that the work should be published posthumously. Following his death in December 1921 it was published by Durand in Paris in April 1922; the first public performance was given on February 25, 1922 by the Concerts Colonne, conducted by Gabriel Pierné.

The Carnival of the Animals has become one of Saint-Saëns's best-known works, played in the original version for eleven instruments, or more often with the full string section of an orchestra. It also been performance as a ballet about animals. often storyless.


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