SAINT-SAËNS Camille, Septet Op.65

Préambule. Allegro moderato 
Menuet. Tempo di minuetto moderato 
Intermède. Andante 
Gavotte et Final. Allegro non troppo – Più allegro  

Saint-Saëns wrote his Septet for the chamber music society ‘La Trompette’ and dedicated the work to its founder, Émile Lemoine. La Trompette gave the first performance of the ‘Préambule’ at one of its soirées in the rue de Grenelle in January 1880 and the complete work was given its premiere on in December 1880, with Saint-Saëns at the piano.  


The dedicatee, Lemoine, noted down the origins of the piece on Saint-Saëns’s autograph manuscript: ‘For a long time, I’d been pestering my friend Saint-Saëns to compose something for our evenings at La Trompette, a serious work which included a trumpet mixed with the string instruments and piano which we normally had. At first he joked about this bizarre combination of instruments, saying that he would first write something for guitar and 13 trombones. In 1879 he gave me a piece for trumpet, piano, string quartet and double bass entitled Préambule which was played on 6 January 1880. It no doubt pleased Saint-Saëns because he told me afterwards that “you will have your complete piece and the Préambule will be the first movement”. He kept his word, and the Septet was played for the first time on 28 December 1880.’ 


The four movements give a clear indication of Saint-Saëns’s classical leanings and his fondness for ancient dance forms, but what gives the work its delightful individuality is the unusual mixture of instruments combined with particularly fertile melodic invention.  


© Nigel Simeone 


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