Relayed from the National Museum of Wales
The National Orchestra of Wales
The dashing youth Phaeton, having been permitted by his father the Sun to drive the fiery chariot, loses control of the horses, The car of flame is approaching the earth, and must set it on fire if nothing can intervene. At the last instant Jupiter hurls a thunderbolt, saving the universe, but destroying the rash youth.
This is the story Saint-Saens illustrates in his Symphonic Poem.
A dignified introduction of four bars prepares us for the magnificent scene of Phaeton's ride. The galloping horses are heard, and a bold, imperious theme on the Trumpets and Trombone presumably stands for the youthful ardour of the charioteer.
A broadly melodious passage played by four Horns, may suggest either the Sun, or the lament of Phaeton's sister (who had harnessed the horses, and so had a part in the disastrous adventure). The pace increases and the excitement is worked up. Phaeton's theme is heard, agitatedly, and then the thunderbolt falls, and the end comes with the Sun's lament for Phaeton.