Orient et Occident Grand Marche pour Grande Harmonie, Op. 25
Born: October 9, 1835, Paris, France
Died: December 16, 1921, Algiers, Algeria
Instrumentation: French Military Band
Edited by Timothy Reynish and Bruce Parry, 1995
Duration: 8 minutes
Camille Saint-Saens, Orient et Occident, Op. 25
"The President's Own" United States Marine Band, Col. John R. Bourgeois, conductor
The French Revolution had a profound effect, not least on the Harmonie, the military band of the eighteenth century. The cozy chamber wind music of Haydn and Mozart, Beethoven and Krommer, with its pairs of wind instruments, was expanded enormously in 1789, when Bernard Sarette first raised the band of the Garde Nationale, a group of some forty-five players, from which evolved the massive groups formed to support the great fêtes through which the politicians put over their ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. It was for these bands that Catel, Louis, Jadin, Mehul and Reicha wrote their “revolutionary” symphonies and marches. In their hands, the oboe was replaced as the main solo instrument by the clarinet and a little later the middle of the band was thickened by the addition of saxophones and saxhorns. Camille Saint-Saëns utilized this Grande Harmonie instrumentation when composing this Grand Marche in 1869.
Although Saint-Saëns did not visit Egypt and Algeria until his later years, the assimilation of exotic styles is an important component in his music (an excellent example is his 5th Piano Concerto). The central section is a moderato with a unison melody typical of 19th century French balletic and operatic forays into the Orient. The “Occident” is characterized by a fine, sweeping melody of great energy, followed by a trio which might have been written by a British march composer. The main thematic material returns in a brief fugato, leading to a restatement of the opening material but treated with greater urgency and combined with the oriental material.
- Timothy Reynish and Bruce Parry