It is not known when exactly this was composed, but as the listener to this disc may have already noticed, the dates of these songs are not of prime importance in understanding them. For all we know, it may come from the very beginning of the composer’s career, it may date from the 1860s, or it may just as easily be contemporary with Suzette et Suzon
from the 1880s. The important thing is that it is a perfect little setting of La Fontaine, and it entirely fits the pithy and acerbic nature of the words. The schadenfreude which was so much part of Saint-Saëns’ personality is here given glorious reign with the malicious tone of the dressing-down by the ant coming straight from the composer’s heart. There are numerous felicitous details: the scurrying motif for the busy, industrious ant (Saint-Saëns himself, always prudent and hard-working); the pathetic little appoggiatura on the word ‘famine’; the little self-indulgent cantilena for the cicada, and the triumphant quotation of ‘J'ai du bon tabac’ in the accompaniment at the end.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1997