Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still ~ Composer ABCs

Once again, there are a lot of excellent composers who fit into the S category. I’m putting up Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, and Still. I’d also add Smetana and Sibelius. So, I’m going pretty generic in information this week. Or at least I’m going to try. 🙂

Camille Saint-Saëns is a French composer of the same era as Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Brahms, Grieg, and Dvorak. One of the main ideas in play during their time was to use the cultural music of their country to inform their composition. Saint-Saëns continued in this yet was innovative in his approaches to it. He was a prolific composer as well as a gifted pianist and organist. He additionally did some conducting. Much of his work is influenced in some part by Liszt, including unity among the movements of a piece, developing in complexity and thematic transformation. This is brought to an exciting height in the Organ Symphony (Symphony No 3 in C Minor, Op. 78). This is an exciting piece, but you must listen all the way through to the finale. Don’t miss the thundering organ at the end. Another fabulous example of Saint-Saëns work is a tone poem titled Carnival of the Animals. These tone poems all work together and present 14 animals through sound. It is a brilliant work that I loved using when I taught elementary music. The students could often recognize the animal being represented by the sound with no help from me. They always enjoyed moving to the sounds also, trying to imitate the music and animal in their movement. The wit and wonder expressed in this composition is a joy.

Dmitri Shostakovich is a Russian composer who was greatly affected by the Russian revolution. He was a Soviet composer by his own description and desired for his music to show that heroic nature he saw in the revolution. After writing his First Symphony at 19, he was quickly noticed by international conductors. His writing became quickly appreciated and at only 21, he wrote October Symphony for the 10th anniversary of the revolution and it was simultaneously premiered in four Russian cities. During WWII, he wrote symphonies that fit the expected nationalistic style but as the war came to an end, he found an unusual “light and sunny mood” (his words) for his 9th symphony. Festive Overture is a favorite piece of mine for it broad style and is described as “socialist realism at its best.” This is because it showed strong, powerful melodies and was premiered for the 30th anniversary of the revolution.

William Grant Still (1895-1978) was an American composer whose works are numerous and broad in genre. He was born in born in Woodville, MS, but when his father died while he was quite young, his mother moved him to Little Rock, AR. He grew up there, greatly influenced by his surroundings, learning violin, listening to symphonies, and being immersed in his heritage. His mother wanted him to study medicine, and while he did enroll in those courses, he actually did more music than medicine. He was able to learn music through playing the oboe (eventually getting a job in a pit orchestra for Shuffle Along. He took lessons in composition from George Chadwick and Edgar Varese. He studied under W.C. Handy “the father of the blues.” His wide education in music allowed him to have a great understanding of a variety of music, writing for orchestra, band, voice, chamber ensembles, stage works (ballets and operas), screen works (for Columbia Pictures, movie scores such as “Stormy Weather”, music for “Gunsmoke” and “Perry Mason”), and piano works. Many of his piano pieces were composer for his wife Verna Arvey, who was a concert pianist. His Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American Symphony) grew in his mind over several years and stands as an important “first” in many ways. It was truly his first symphony. It was the first symphony by a black composer performed by a major American symphony. It was premiered by the Rochester Symphony in 1931 and the performed by the New York Philarharmonic in 1935 at Carnegie Hall. It was also later performed in Europe, another first for a black American composer. Regardless of these firsts, it is a lovely, important piece of music that is worth the listen. The four movements were given titles by the composer – Longings, Sorrows, Humor, and Aspirations.

Bedřich Smetana is a Czech composer whose heart shows through his music. He is often studied for his musical melodies that bring to life his home country and land. The Bohemia of his life is reflected in his music. He wrote much throughout his life. He worked to bring the folk songs and dances of his land into his music and wrote operas on Czech texts and subjects. One of his most famous works is Má vlast, completed in the last few years of his life. It was premiered in 1879. This set of 6 tone poems beautifully recalls “the Bohemia of old – its woods and cultivated plains, its villages, its romantic hills and old legends . . .” (Paul Stefan) It is quite ironic that these beautiful melodies were begun at the time he lost his hearing completely.

Jean Sibelius is a composer from Finland, at the time it was under the control of Tsarist Russia. There was little musical background in the country, no tradition or legacy to grab hold of. There was, however, a rich national mythology that influenced Sibelius in his tone poems and symphonies. These are a large portion of Sibelius’ output. His music represents the history of the mythology, in many cases. It is intended to bring about images and ideas, not to tell a story. This musical painting recalls nature, Finnish forests, seasons, weather. Unlike most composers, Sibelius did not compose from early on all the way through to his death. His last major pieces was composed more than 30 years prior to his death in 1957. Expect much emotion from the work of Sibelius. It is one of the reasons I am sharing it with you.

Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson
O – Offenbach
P – Palestrina and Prokofiev
Q – Quilter
R – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Ravel

So I’m late getting the composer post up this week. It won’t be added to the link up but you can still visit the link and find other posts for the letter S.

The S post over at Our Homeschool Notebook is S is for Sea creatures 
The S post over at Every Bed of Roses is Science in your Homeschool

Other posts to visit –

Featured from last week the letter R…

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15 thoughts on “Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still ~ Composer ABCs

  1. finchnwren August 27, 2021 at 3:13 pm Reply

    I’m loving all of your Russian, or Russia-adjacent, composers! I especially liked learning more about Sibelius. Sometimes when all we know is a composer’s name we miss nuance that could help us enjoy the music even more deeply.

    • 3gigglygirlsathome August 27, 2021 at 8:44 pm Reply

      Oh, I am so glad I included Sibelius now. I almost didn’t because the post was getting so long. Thank you for commenting.

      • finchnwren August 27, 2021 at 9:49 pm

        Of course! 😀

  2. […] Composer ABCs in this series:A – Leroy AndersonB – Bernstein, Bizet, BaxC – CoplandD – Debussy and de MeijE – ElgarF – FauréG – Grainger and GinasteraH – HolstI – IvesJ – Joplin and JanacekK – KernL – LisztM – MussorgskyN – NelsonO – OffenbachP – Palestrina and ProkofievQ – QuilterR – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, RavelS – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, Sibelius […]

  3. Ellen August 31, 2021 at 12:20 pm Reply

    I love Carnival of Animals. We used it too, when Zachery was in Kindergarten.

  4. […] from Chareen at Every Bed of RosesScience in High School from Chareen at Every Bed of RosesSaint-Saens, Shostakovich, Still – Composer ABC’s from Lori at At Home: Where Life […]

  5. Ustvolskaya ~ Composer ABCs | At Home September 6, 2021 at 7:18 pm Reply

    […] and ProkofievQ – QuilterR – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, RavelS – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, SibeliusT – Tavener & […]

  6. […] and ProkofievQ – QuilterR – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, RavelS – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, SibeliusT – Tavener & TchaikovskyU – […]

  7. Whitacre & Willson ~ Composer ABCs | At Home September 22, 2021 at 10:33 am Reply

    […] and ProkofievQ – QuilterR – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, RavelS – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, SibeliusT – Tavener & TchaikovskyU – UstvolskayaV – Vaughan Williams and […]

  8. Xenakis ~ Composer ABCs | At Home September 28, 2021 at 12:38 pm Reply

    […] and ProkofievQ – QuilterR – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, RavelS – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, SibeliusT – Tavener & TchaikovskyU – UstvolskayaV – Vaughan Williams and Villa-LobosW – […]

  9. Yoshimatsu ~ Composer ABCs | At Home October 5, 2021 at 5:51 pm Reply

    […] and ProkofievQ – QuilterR – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, RavelS – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, SibeliusT – Tavener & TchaikovskyU – UstvolskayaV – Vaughan Williams and Villa-LobosW […]

  10. Annette Vellenga (@athomepets) October 13, 2021 at 10:24 pm Reply

    oh, I listened all the way through the Finnish fellow… I liked it! 🙂

  11. Zimmer ~ Composer ABCs | At Home October 15, 2021 at 11:59 am Reply

    […] and ProkofievQ – QuilterR – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, RavelS – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, SibeliusT – Tavener & TchaikovskyU – UstvolskayaV – Vaughan Williams and Villa-LobosW […]

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