Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) was a celebrated French composer, conductor, teacher, pianist, and organist. Like Mozart, he was a child prodigy. By age 3 he began to study piano, and before his fifth birthday he performed publicly before a Paris salon. By age 7 he had begun to compose, and at 11 made his public concert debut playing concertos by Mozart and Beethoven in the Salle Pleyel. He attended the Paris Conservatoire, was organist for many years at the Church of the Madeleine, and taught piano at Ecole Niedermeyer. He was a man of many interests, including poetry, foreign travel, archeology, astronomy, and mathematics. His most famous musical works included an opera Sampson and Delilah, orchestral poems such as Danse Macabre, symphonies, concertos for violin, cello, and piano, and numerous chamber works. While he was a serious and dedicated composer, his music reflected his French wit and charm. As you will see in Carnival of the Animals, he loved a good musical joke, and he had a talent for musical characterization, or bringing to life the animals that he wrote about.