Violin Online: The Swan

The Swan by Saint-Saëns

from The Carnival of the Animals
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Melody Full Score
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The Swan by Saint-Saëns Overview

The Swan (Le Cygne in French), was composed in 1886 by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), a French composer. Saint-Saëns created a musical composition entitled The Carnival of The Animals as a form of private entertainment for friends, and The Swan, a lovely, lyrical cello solo, is one of best known pieces from this work. It took Saint-Saëns only a few days to compose The Carnival of The Animals, and Saint-Saëns created it as a musical joke for friends, parodying the music of other composers with his witty musical characterizations of fossils, tortoises, birds, sea creatures, lions and other mammals. Saint-Saëns only performed The Carnival of The Animals privately a few times for friends and did not permit it to be performed publicly during his lifetime (he apparently felt this musical work was not a serious reflection of his compositional skills).[1] The only piece from this work that he did permit to be performed publicly, was The Swan. Saint-Saëns originally composed The Swan as a cello solo with two pianos. In 1887, he published a rearranged version of The Swan for cello solo with one piano. After the death of Saint-Saëns in 1921, the public premiere of The Carnival of the Animals took place in 1922.[2]

The original score of The Carnival of the Animals called for the following instruments: two pianos, two violins, viola, cello, double bass, flute, clarinet, glockenspiel, glass harmonica and xylophone. Some of the other 14 pieces in The Carnival of The Animals include The Elephant, with a lumbering melody performed by a double bass with piano accompaniment; Kangaroos, played by the leaping melodies of two pianos; and The Aviary, featuring the flittering melody of the flute accompanied by fluttering strings and piano.


[1] Harding, James and Fallon, Daniel M. " Camille Saint- Saëns," The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Ed. Stanley Sadie. London : Macmillian, 1980. 16:400-407.

[2] Ratner, Sabina Teller. Camille Saint-Saëns, 1835-1921: The instrumental works. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002: 188-192.

*Sheet music is scored in three-part harmony, and parts are available with interchangeable viola, cello and bass music. Sheet music files are in PDF format, and require Acrobat® Reader. If you don’t have Acrobat® Reader installed, it’s a free download. Click on the following link: Get Acrobat Reader


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