A Programme of Amusing Pieces played by THE MIDLAND
Conducted by VICTOR HELY-HUTCHINSON
MARGARET ABLETHORPE and MAURICE UDLOFF (pianofortes)
Saint-Saens's excursions into the realm of programme music were few, but that he was a master of pictorial illustration is clearly shown in the symphonic poem ' Omphale's Spinning Wheel' and the ' Danse Macabre '. Another instance, but on a smaUer and more restricted scale, is ' The Animals' Carnival', which was originally intended as a joke for the composer's pupils.
As Saint-Saens was unable to finish it in time, it was first performed in 1886 as a surprise item at the annual concert of Lebouc, the 'cellist, and later repeated by the society ' La Trompette ', and again at the request of Liszt at Madame Viardot's house. With the exception of one number, ' The Swan Saint-Sains withheld its publication until after his death.
' The Animals' Carnival', ', scored for two pianos, two violins, viola, 'cello, bass flute, clarinet, harmonica, and xylophone, consists of fourteen short numbers. The music as a whole is full of charm, wit, and fancy. Several numbers are delightfully satirical, such as No. 4, which is based on two'themes from Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld (the first from the final ballet and the second from Act i) ; No. 5, which is a humorous distortion for double-bass and piano of Berlioz's ' Danse des Sylphes ' and Mendelssohn's ' Song of a Summer Night' ; No. 11, which imitates an awkward beginner playing five-finger exercises and scales in various keys (we have all suffered from this disturbing animal !) ; and No. 12, which is a queer mixture of two well-known popular French airs, Saint-Saens's own ' Danse Macabre' and an air from Rossini's Barber of Seville. No. 14 is a very jolly and brilliant affair in which several of the animals are introduced to each other with harmonious effect.