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CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS  - COMPOSER

The great French composer writes to the poet, Georges Docquois on the verso of an unusual postcard photograph showing Saint-Saëns posed with soldiers outside of the military hospital at Houlgate, in Normandy, September 19, 1914.

 

19 September, 1914

 

Houlgate

(Calvados)

Hotel du Casino

 

Thank you for your lovely letter, my dear friend.  I am here very well installed while waiting for the trains to resume their normal course allowing me to return home. I am with my friends thanks to Montagné! Our “red center” will come when the war is over; it will lose nothing to wait because the French works will have nice game against the German works. I think the nightmare is coming to an end

 

Yours affectionately,

 

The composer writes to Docquois (1863-1927) two and a half months after the start of the First World War.  Houlgate depicted in the postcard is on the coast of Normandy and was turned into a hospital town in 1914.  The military took over all of the public buildings, hospitals and the local hotels and turned them into hospitals.  At this point no one would realize the War would rage on for another four years.

 

 The composer and poet worked on a song cycle of love poetry entitled “La Cendre Rouge” or “The Red Ash”, which became Saint-Saëns’ op. 146.  The cycle which consists of 10 new poems set to music did not wait for the end of the War, in fact Saint-Saëns spent from May through September 1914 composing them and in fact a World Premiere was given in Paris on November 23rd, 1914 with the Canadian tenor Rodolphe Plamondon and the composer at the piano.  The songs, Prélude, Âme Triste, Douceur, Silence, Pâques, Jour de Pluie, Amoroso, Mai, Petite Main and Reviens were all written prior to the start of the conflict and do not indicate anything of the troubled times facing France.

 

A most unusual and quite unknown image of Saint-Saëns and an intriguing letter with content written shortly after the War started.

 

 

 

 

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