Le Carnaval des Animaux (The Carnival of the Animals) is a musical suite of fourteen movements by the French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns.
Le Carnaval was composed in February 1886 while Saint-Saëns was vacationing in a small Austrian village. It was originally scored for a chamber group of flute, clarinet, two pianos, glass harmonica, xylophone, two violins, viola, cello and double bass, but is usually performed today with a full orchestra of strings, and with a glockenspiel substituting for the rare glass harmonica.
Saint-Saëns, apparently concerned that the piece was too frivolous and likely to harm his reputation as a serious composer, suppressed performances of it and only allowed one movement, Le Cygne, to be published in his lifetime. Only small private performances were given for close friends like Franz Liszt.
Saint-Saëns did, however, include a provision which allowed the suite to be published after his death, and it has since become one of his most popular works. It is a favorite of music teachers and young children, along with Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf and Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.
Le Cygne (The Swan)
Two pianos and cello: This is by far the most famous movement of the suite, often performed sole and is used to showcase the interpretive skills of the cellist. The lushly romantic cello solo is played over rippling sixteenths in one piano and rolled chords in the other.
Artwork: Leonora Carrington