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Although in later life he had a reputation for outspoken musical conservatism, in the 1850s Saint-Saëns supported and promoted the most modern music of the day, including that of Liszt, Robert Schumann and Richard Wagner.

He commented, "I admire deeply the works of Richard Wagner in spite of their bizarre character.

The instrument was adequate for church services but not for the ambitious recitals that many high-profile Parisian churches offered.

This work, with military fanfares and augmented brass and percussion sections, caught the mood of the times in the wake of the popular rise to power of Napoleon III and the restoration of the French Empire.

Both of them were strongly influenced by Saint-Saëns, whom they revered as a genius.

When Saint-Saëns was brought back to Paris he lived with his mother and her widowed aunt, Charlotte Masson.

The director, Daniel Auber, had succeeded Luigi Cherubini in 1842, and brought a more relaxed regime than that of his martinet predecessor, though the curriculum remained conservative.

After studying at the Paris Conservatoire he followed a conventional career as a church organist, first at Saint-Merri, Paris and, from 1858, La Madeleine, the official church of the French Empire.Saint-Saëns held only one teaching post, at the École de Musique Classique et Religieuse in Paris, and remained there for less than five years.It was nevertheless important in the development of French music: his students included Gabriel Fauré, among whose own later pupils was Maurice Ravel.His interests included philosophy, archaeology and astronomy, of which, particularly the last, he remained a talented amateur in later life.In 1848, at the age of thirteen, Saint-Saëns was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire, France's foremost music academy.

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