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Septet in E Flat Major Op.65
 Composed by Saint-Saens, Camille
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Camille Saint-SaŽns (1835-1921)

Septet in E Flat Major Op.65

Never one to refuse a technical challenge, Saint-SaŽns took on a stiff one in 1881 in composing a septet for the unusual combination of trumpet, two violins, viola, cello, double-bass and piano. The problem was balance, but his instrumental wizardry produced a work that became more popular than he truly enjoyed when he considered that some of his more elaborate works were under-valued. Composed in E flat, the Septet calls for a trumpet in that key, but an alternative part for the commoner B flat trumpet is available.

In the opening bars a flourish of semiquavers heralds the entry of the trumpet, whose fanfare figures are echoed by strings and piano. Then loud piano arpeggios punctuate the fanfares. After a pause the tempo quickens with a march-like theme. An arching string phrase makes an expressive contrast, but the piano arpeggios and trumpet fanfares soon return and the movement reaches a fortissimo climax.

Trumpet and violins in octaves introduce the first strain of the minuet, while the strings have most of the second. The double-bass is silent in the central trio section, which has a flowing theme for trumpet and strings.

The C minor Interlude evokes a nostalgic mood with an arch-shaped theme given out in sequence as if in a slow fugato. The piano breaks into a strenuous chordal theme. Then the initial theme is recollected.

For the first part of the last movement Saint-SaŽns offers a gavotte. After a trio section led by the trumpet the gavotte is repeated, leading to the quicker, strongly-accented finale proper and an animated coda.

© Eric Mason

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