Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Symphonic Poem, "La Jeunesse d'Hercule" - Saint-Saëns
Symphonic Poem, "La Jeunesse d'Hercule"
The following inscription on the score gives the program of "The Youth of Hercules": "The fable relates that Hercules on his entrance upon life saw two roads lie open before him -- that of pleasure and that of virtue. Insensible to the seductions of nymphs and bacchantes, the hero chooses the paths of struggle and combats, at the end of which he catches a glimpse of the reward of immortality, through the flames of the funeral pyre."
The poem begins with a slow introduction in the muted violins, accompanied In the strings and woodwinds. A roll of the kettle drums leads to the first theme, given out in the strings. Development in the strings, woodwinds, and horns leads to a subsidiary theme in the violins, with accompaniment in woodwinds. The second theme opens in the flute and clarinet, then appears in the first violins, next in the harp, and finally subsides pianissimo in the horn. An Allegro follows, giving out a festive melody in the flute over a tremolo in the violas, joined by the second violins. After development , it dies away and the Andante of the first theme returns, and is extensively developed. At last it works up to a vigorous climax, when suddenly the second theme appears in opposition in the woodwinds, harp, and horns. The struggle between them leads to a climax, closing with the superiority of the first theme given out in full orchestra.