Natalia Makarova, perhaps the greatest dying swan ever
What Camille Saint-Saens had in common with Mozart was his incredible precociousness as a musician and composer. Unlike Mozart, though, his career was an upward trajectory: successful first symphony composed while still in his teens, idolized in France by his twenties; he earned the professional respect of composers Berlioz and Liszt; he was an accomplished concert pianist, and wrote books on philosophy, literature, and the arts.
Some folks feel his music doesn’t have a whole lot of depth, and music writers since his death have said it’s too bad he wasn’t known for his whole body of work instead of a few glowing exceptions: The Carnival of the Animals, his Second Piano Concerto, the Organ Symphony, the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso for Violin and Orchestra, and the Danse macabre.
“The Carnival of the Animals” features a piece called The Swan, with just cello solo and piano accompaniment, which choreographer Michel Fokine suggested to Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova in response to her request for a short piece inspired by the swans she saw at a park. They completed the dance quickly, walked through it, and made a few adjustments. Pavlova’s interpretation of the dance lead her to call it The Dying Swan.
This is the legendary ballerina Natalia Makarova, whose bendy arms are the most fluid wings I have ever seen.
Camille Saint-Saens was born October 9 in Paris, France, and died December 16 in Algiers, Algeria.