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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Symphony No. 3 in A Minor. Op. 55 - Saint-Saëns

Symphony No. 3 in A Minor. Op. 55

Camille Saint-Saëns

1. Allegro marcato. Allegro passionato.
2. Adagio
3. Scherzo. Presto.
4. Prestissimo.

Saint-Saën's Third symphony was written in 1878. It is scored for full orchestra, except trombones, and is characterized by the gracefulness rather than the depth of its ideas. The two strong chords leading to an animated passage in the strings, which is recitative in its style, and a short episode lead to the first theme, given out in the violins, which, after imitation by the other strings, gives place to the second theme. The two subjects are then ingeniously and spiritedly combined. After an inversion of the second, forming a new melody, a third subject appears in flute and strings. The three are then combined in various positions until the first reappears. The second is used episodically. There are reminiscences of the Introduction, and a Coda formed out of the third closes the movement.

The Adagio is a charming movement, graceful, delicate, and sweet, though short. It is built up on two themes -- the first of a pastoral character, in the muted strings; and the second in the English horn, with strings, this instrument being used with particularly happy effect. The Adagio is in the major key, but the Scherzo returns to the minor. It opens with a lively, piquant theme, which after varied repetitions gives place to a second theme, introduced in the horns and taken up in the strings and oboes. The first theme is repeated, and leads to a solo for the oboe. The development of this material is skilful, and with a vigorous pizzicato, accompanied by the wind instruments in sustained chords, the movement closes.

The final movement, prestissimo, is rightly characterized. It is an exhilarating dance rhythm of the Saltarello order, starting off with a theme in the first violins, accompanied by the other strings pizzicato. The vigorous skipping melody is followed by a second theme which preserves the same rhythm. The two are then combined in a diversity of styles, and gather fresh interest as the horns take up the merry effect, the piccolo doing good service with the melody. After a slower episode the first theme reappears and foes skipping off again in its spirited dance. In the Coda, the second theme is heard in unison among the strings, and with a few strong, harmonious chords the symphony closes.

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See also:
Middle Ages Music
Renaissance Music
Baroque Era Music
Classical Era Music
Romantic Era Music
Nationalist Era Music
Turn of Century Music

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