Saint-Saëns Camille 1835–1922
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The career of French composer Camille Saint-Saëns was a long journey from a progressive youth to a reactionary old age. The young Saint-Saëns defied the complacent French musical establishment of his day by defending the work of such composers as Berlioz and Liszt, both of whom were considered dangerous radicals. Rather than compose trivial ballets and formulaic operas, like most of his French contemporaries, Saint-Saëns cultivated the unpopular genres of symphony, concerto, and symphonic poem. His symphonic poem Danse macabre, op. 40 (1874) was considered so avantgarde that there was a riot at the premiere. By the end of his life, however, he had turned musically conservative, bitterly criticizing the music of Debussy and Stravinsky.