Today’s music piece is the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Camille Saint-Saëns. Saint-Saëns was born in Paris and was one of the most remarkable child prodigies in music-history, which included Mozart. Before he was three years old he displayed perfect pitch and enjoyed picking out tunes on the piano and by the age of ten he made his official public debut, at the Salle Pleyel, in a programme that included Mozart’s Piano Concerto in B♭.
Early in his career he was a church organist which earned him a handsome living. The Parisian parish where he performed had 24,000 parishioners and if you consider the organist fees from the hundreds of wedding and funerals Saint-Saëns lived very comfortably. He was enthusiastic for the most modern music of the day, particularly that of Schumann, Liszt and Wagner, although his own compositions were generally within a conventional classical tradition.
When he became a teacher he scandalised some of his more austere colleagues by introducing his students to the aforementioned composers. Saint-Saëns further enlivened the academic regime by writing, and composing incidental music for, a one-act farce performed by the students. He conceived his best-known piece, The Carnival of the Animals, with his students in mind, but did not finish composing it until 1886, more than twenty years after he left the Niedermeyer school.
Saint-Saëns wrote the Piano Concerto No. 2 in just 3 weeks and reportedly had very little time to prepare for the premiere. But it remains probably his most popular piano concerto. Fellow French composer Georges Bizet who has featured here before wrote a transcription of the concerto for solo piano. The performance below of the Piano Concerto No.2 is by the London Symphony Orchestra with Arthur Rubinstein on piano. Arthur Rubinstein has been described as one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century. He played in public for eight decades! Coincidentally a composer by the name of Anton Rubinstein conducted the orchestra at the premiere.