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1902; airs de ballet

Parysatis, a play described as 'a spectacular drama based on the life of the bloodthirsty queen of ancient Persia', had its first performance on 17 August 1902 at the southern French resort of Béziers, not far north of the Spanish border. Four years earlier, a rich impresario had acquired an enormous bull-ring there and converted it into an amphitheatre, to be the centre of attraction at a regular music festival. Although Saint-Saëns had a horror of blood-sports, the acoustics of the open-air stadium were so good that he was persuaded to inaugurate the first Béziers Festival with a lyric tragedy entitled Déjanire, based on the life of Hercules. The annual festival regularly focused on his music, and the town itself honoured the composer with the 'Avenue Saint-Saëns'.

The incidental music to Jane Dieulafoy’s drama Parysatis called for a large orchestra, vocal soloists and a chorus, and was received with tumultuous acclaim. The tuneful 'Airs de ballet', which consists of a brief introduction and three exotic dances, was published separately from the complete score and uses harps, 'crotales' (antique finger-cymbals) and striking groupings of winds and strings to produce a sequence of sensual, eastern abandon.

from notes by Edward Johnson © 2019


Saint-Saëns: Africa & other orchestral works
Studio Master: SIGCD2162Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


No 1: Entrée
No 2: Air de ballet No 1
No 3: Air de ballet No 2
No 4: Air de ballet No 3

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