Like Mozart, Camille Saint-Saëns was a child prodigy. At 2½ he could pick out tunes on the piano; at the age of 3 he composed his first piece; and by 7 he was giving public concerts as a pianist and organist. When he was 10, he made his public debut and offered to play any one of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas from memory. He had total recall of anything he had ever read.
Saint-Saëns was also a conductor, critic, music scholar, teacher and composer. Working in Paris, he founded a society that supported an entire new generation of French composers. Despite these talents, he never quite lived up to expectations. While he composed operas, none were very popular. His style of music was traditional and conservative and for the most part followed Classical traditions. His best-known works are several concertos, an organ symphony and The Carnival of the Animals.