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SAINT-SAËNS, Camille (1835-1921)



  • Geoffrey Burleson, piano

Although he is best remembered for his orchestral and instrumental music, Saint-Saëns was also responsible for spearheading the revival of the French Baroque, especially the music of Lully and Rameau, as well as being perfectly placed to absorb the latest instrumental dance music. His five ‘character waltzes’ include the ethereal and ravishingly textured Valse mignonne, the stylistically forward-looking Valse nonchalante and the virtuosic Valse gaie, the composer’s final waltz for solo piano, while the three minor key Mazurkas are strongly characterised and filled with ingenious musical contrasts. Last but not least, the three ‘souvenirs’ are delightful evocations of particular corners of the world that inspired Saint-Saëns.


Gavotte in C Minor, Op. 23 (1871) (00:03:05)
Mazurka No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 21 (1862) (00:03:32)
Mazurka No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 24 (1871) (00:04:19)
Mazurka No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 66 (1882) (00:05:19)
Menuet et valse, Op. 56 (1872) (00:12:27)
Valse canariote in A Minor, Op. 88 (1890) (00:05:28)
Valse mignonne in E-Flat Major, Op. 104 (1896) (00:03:13)
Valse nonchalante in D-Flat Major, Op. 110 (1899) (00:04:00)
Valse langoureuse in E Major, Op. 120 (1903) (00:04:36)
Valse gaie, Op. 139 (1912) (00:05:27)
Une nuit a Lisbonne in E-Flat Major, Op. 63 (1880) (00:04:39)
Souvenir d'Italie in G Major, Op. 80 (1887) (00:08:55)
Souvenir d'Ismailia, Op. 100 (1895) (00:06:52)
Total Time: 01:11:52

The Artist

Burleson, Geoffrey

Geoffrey Burleson has performed to wide acclaim throughout Europe and North america, and is equally active as a recitalist, concerto soloist, chamber musician and jazz performer. His numerous solo appearances include prominent venues in Paris, New York, Rome, Athens, Mexico City, Rotterdam, Chicago, Boston, Washington, Switzerland, England, Spain, and elsewhere.

The Composer

Once described as the French Mendelssohn, Camille Saint-Saëns was talented and precocious as a child, with interests by no means confined to music. He made an early impression as a pianist. Following established French tradition, he was for nearly 20 years organist at the Madeleine in Paris and taught briefly at the École Niedermeyer, where he befriended his pupil Gabriel Fauré. He was a co-founder of the important Société Nationale de Musique with the patriotic aim of promoting contemporary French music in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-01, in which he had served in the Garde Nationale de la Seine. Prolific and versatile as a composer, he contributed to most genres of music, but by the time of his death in 1921 his popularity in France had diminished considerably, as fashions in music had changed.


The best known of the 13 operas completed by Saint-Saëns is Samson et Dalila, a romantic treatment of the biblical story. His pastiche dances from the unhistorical opera Henry VIII may also be heard in concert performance.

Vocal and Choral Music

Saint-Saëns wrote a number of sacred and secular choral works and made a considerable contribution to the body of French solo song.

Orchestral Music

The ‘Organ’ Symphony—the third of the three numbered symphonies by Saint-Saëns, so named from the use of the instrument in the work—is the best known. Other popular orchestral works include Le Rouet d’Omphale (‘Omphale’s Wheel’) and Danse macabre.

Saint-Saëns, a fine pianist himself, wrote five piano concertos, three violin concertos and two cello concertos. Both the Introduction and Rondo capriccioso and Havanaise are familiar in the repertoire for violin and orchestra.

Chamber Music

Saint-Saëns was equally prolific in his provision of chamber music, with a series of duo sonatas, including two violin sonatas, two cello sonatas and a variety of other pieces. The Carnival of the Animals, often heard in more expanded form, was originally a private joke for the enjoyment of his friends.

Organ and Piano Music

Saint-Saëns, distinguished as a pianist and organist, wrote for both instruments, as well as for the harmonium. His organ music includes the Fantaisie in E flat, his first such composition and among the most popular with recitalists.


“Burleson has immersed himself in the entirety of Saint-Saëns output and is a powerful advocate for this music.” – American Record Guide

“Burleson’s performances are able and musicianly…” – Gramophone

“Overall, this is a superb disc played by a very talented pianist who is more than able to cope with the Saint-Saëns’ myriad technical details and colours.” – MusicWeb International

“…Burleson does a wonderful job of honoring the “dance roots” of these selections. …[He] plays as if he believes that there is more substance to what he is playing; and the attentive listener is likely to agree with him.” – Examiner.com

“The American pianist, Geoffrey Burleson, ideally mixes the passages of seductive beauty with those that are very busy, his playing always well detailed.” – David Denton