What does Saint-Saëns’s opinion about The Swan tell us?

I bought a hard-to-find hardback copy of the composer Saint-Saëns’s biography as a present to my PhD supervisor. Although I didn’t know who Saint-Saëns was then, and only do so now because my wife knows her stuff when it comes to classical music, a little story I heard about him has stuck in my mind.

Apparently, Saint-Saëns hated “The Swan” – one of the most recognisable parts of one, if not the most famous, of his compositions: The Carnival of the Animals. It goes like this:

Saint-Saëns’s hatred of the piece stems from its popularity: he detested the fact that what he considered to be so simple a piece was so popular with the public.

This set me to thinking about elitism, populism and perceptions of these from the different standpoints they represent. There’s a parallel to be drawn between the purveyors of policy and the practitioners of politics, too.

The thing is, I’m not quite sure what it is yet. But I know that Saint-Saëns’s views resonated for some reason.

If anyone cares to enlighten me, therefore, please do…


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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

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