Saint-Saëns composed this Violin Concerto at the age of 45 during a compositional period that kicked off following the Franco-Prussian war. This period was meant to establish a separation from German music traditions while elevating French music. Some of this new energy is evident in the writing style as it relies more heavily on inward expression than the outward flair of his previous work.
Violin Concert #3 is in B minor, lasts just under half an hour, and is in three sections called movements, like chapters of a book. Saint-Saëns had experimented with other formats prior to this concerto but returned to the standard 3 “chapter” fast-slow-fast structure for this one.
This concerto is dedicated to fellow composer and Spanish rock star violinist, Pablo de Sarasate. Possibly for this reason, or due to the fascination of French composers with Spanish music, the final movement has overt Spanish influence in both rhythmic and melodic elements.
It’s not a requirement to have a mustache in order to enjoy listening to this concerto, but you may feel a bit of peer pressure to wear one considering Saint-Saëns and Sarasate sported these magnificent bro-merangs.
Pictured: Camille Saint-Saëns (left) and Pablo de Sarasate (right).
In addition to the solo violin, Saint-Saëns’ score calls for 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, and the usual string section of violins, violas, cellos, and basses.