Saint-Saëns, Camille


Saint-Saëns, Camille

Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Op. 17 (Piano Reduction for 2 pianos, 2 copies)

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Saint-Saëns, Camille

Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Op. 17 (Piano Reduction for 2 pianos, 2 copies)

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (b. Paris, 9 October 1835 – d. Algiers, 16 December 1921)

Preface to the full score:

Piano Concerto No. 1 in D major op. 17 (1858)

As a young composer, Saint-Saëns was one of the leading representatives of the progressive tendencies in French music. However, his career as a composer in France developed in a rather unusual manner. His compositions did not correspond with the French taste of the time, which placed the opera at the centre. In contrast, symphonic music was only marginal. Therefore his music was more successful in Germany (where above all Franz Liszt supported him), than in France. At the end of his long life he was regarded as a traditionalist and opponent of the modern. This unfortunately often lead to Saint-Saëns’ music being underrated. Thus, in Riemann’s Encyclopaedia of Music his music is characterized as follows: “In his compositions, in which he combines his considerable ability with a cool austerity and elegance, formal and technical charac-teristics are strongly predominant.” Saint-Saëns was a brilliant pianist and organist, so it is not surprising that he wrote five piano concertos for his own use. All five are of a high musical quality and very gratifying for the pianist. They were written over a period of almost 40 years and are quite different. In the concert hall, particularly the 2nd and 4th piano concertos have become established. The 1st piano concerto has a tendency towards a virtuoso concerto; particularly in the third movement. However, the composition structured by a strong classical sense of form and is therefore similar to the piano concertos from Mendelssohn (this is also true for the harmony, melody and orchestration). Only Saint-Saëns successfully used the traditional concerto form in the 19th century in France. Thus the 1st piano concerto is considered as the first significant piano concerto of a French composer, as the traditional forms such as concerto and symphony were avoided for the sake of the popular opera and operetta. As Saint-Saëns wrote his 1st piano concerto in 1858, he was already established as a pianist. The date of the first performance is not known. As a composer he was very critical of his own work. His 1st symphony was written five years earlier. In the meantime, he composed many works, which however he destroyed, as he did not regard them as satisfactory. The piano concerto reveals similarities to the 2nd symphony which was written in the same year. According to Saint-Saens, the work was inspired by the Wood at Fontainebleau, where he liked to picnic with friends. The 1st piano concerto is formed by youthful vigour and joy of living.

The first movement is a sonata movement in the classical form, without, however, the usual solo cadenza. The call of the horn in the andante introduction becomes an important element in the following allegro assai main section, in which he, in the manner of Liszt, develops it with rapid arpeggios on the piano. This horn call also appears at the end of the third movement and forms the inner link of the work. This device, which Saint-Saëns had already used in his earlier symphony “Urbs Roma” (1856), thus gives the composition an increased unity.

The middle movement gives the soloist room for development. Particularly the solo cadenzas, which are often written without bars, are striking. The orchestra, which is considerably reduced, withdraws into the background and mainly serves as a link between the extended piano passages. Here, the unusually advanced harmony is most clearly apparent. The final movement is formed by an extravagant virtuosity, which however also led to the concerto being criticised. Thus Emile Baumann wrote 1905 in his L’Ouvre de M. Camille Saint-Saëns: “This still rather impersonal composition, in which virtuosity is permitted too large a space, shows the exaggeration of youth”. Duration about 30 minutes.

Translation: John Conrad

In questions of performance material please contact Durand, Paris. Reprint of a copy from the collection Marcus Prieser, Wittmund.

Score Data

Score No.



Repertoire Explorer

Special Edition

Keyboard & Orchestra


225 x 320 mm

Performance materials
Piano reduction

Piano Reduction



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