AMIS 2022: A Breath of Modernity! Camille Saint-Saëns and Wind Instruments

The American Musical Instrument Society (AMIS) promotes better understanding of all aspects of the history, design, construction, restoration, and usage of musical instruments in all cultures and from all periods. In June 2022, their annual meeting was held at Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre.

A Breath of Modernity! Camille Saint-Saëns and Wind Instruments (Remote Presentation)
Fabien Guilloux and Emanuele Marconi

Fabien Guilloux is Research Fellow at the Institute for Musicology Research (UMR 8223 – CNRS), Fabien devotes part of his work to nineteenth-century French music. He is a member of the editorial committee of the Complete Instrumental Works of Camille Saint-Saëns (Bärenreiter). He has participated in the critical edition of Samson et Dalila (2018), published Quatuors à cordes (2019) and the Sonates pour violon et piano (2021), and is currently preparing the Concertos pour violon et orchestre. He is also secretary of the Société Camille Saint-Saëns.

Emanuele Marconi: Organologist, conservator, and curator, he is Director of Le Musée des instruments à vent in La Couture-Boussey. His research interests include the history and philosophy of restoration and investigating all aspects related to the understanding of the relationships between society, culture, technical evolution, and aesthetic perception, as well as analyzing myths and symbolism related to musical instruments. He is webmaster and an advisory board member for CIMCIM.

Camille Saint-Saëns’ long artistic career corresponds to one of the most inventive periods in the history of music instruments making: flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, and trumpets gradually adopted the modern form that we know today and the new families of saxophones, saxhorns or sarrusophones, born from the intuition of genius makers, enriched the sound palette of the orchestra. Curious by nature, a tireless explorer, always in search of new associations of timbres, passionate about acoustic and technical inventions, Saint-Saëns mingles with this breath of modernity. From the Tarentelle for f lute and clarinet, Op. 6 (1857) until the Sonata for bassoon and piano, Op. 168 (1921), he composed some fifty works dedicated to wind instruments and surrounded himself with the best performers. By exploiting all the technical possibilities of the winds and their expressive richness, Saint-Saëns thus opens the way to a renewal of the repertoire. It was primarily in the Normandy town of La Couture-Boussey and its neighbouring villages—where famous dynasties of instrument makers such as Buffet, Godfroy, Julliot, Martin, Noblet and Thibouville practised their art—that most of these woodwind instruments innovations emerged and new instruments were mass-produced, initially using traditional methods and later on an industrial scale. It therefore seemed a logical progression to discuss Saint-Saëns’ intense period of creativity in the context of these developments in wind instrument making. This has provided a glimpse of the areas of convergence between composers, distinguished performers and master craftsmen in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the advancement of new instruments and the creation of a distinctive repertoire.

Watch more videos from the 2022 AMIS Conference here.