Camille Saint-Saëns was one of the most important French composers of the Romantic era. Born in Paris in 1835, Saint-Saëns received his first musical tuition from his great-aunt, and at the age of seven he became a pupil of Camille-Marie Stamaty. Saint-Saëns gave his first public performance at the age of ten, playing a programme that included Mozart’s Piano Concerto in B-flat and Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire and went on to follow a conventional career as a church organist.
Saint-Saëns was enthusiastic about new music, but his own style was generally conventional and traditional. He was an avid scholar of musical history, having discovered Bach’s music at a young age, and remained committed to maintaining a tradition of French music established by composers before him. Although he only held one teaching post, and this for only five years, he was an influential figure on French music in the 20th century, and taught Gabriel Fauré, whose own students included Maurice Ravel.