Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921) was the French composer of such famous works as Carnival of the Animals, the opera Samson and Delilah, Danse Macabre, and the Organ Symphony. He was a child prodigy who became France’s most renowned composer. Late in life, he traveled to all corners of the world. Orient et Occident (1869) was the first of three pieces that he wrote for wind band. It is subtitled “grand march”, though in reality it is more of a Lisztian tone poem. The piece has clearly-defined Western (Occidental) and Eastern (Oriental) sections. It begins in the West, with a rousing march melody that leads to a stirring, processional legato. The middle section is an homage to Turkish (what Saint-Saens considered Eastern) janissary music, with melodies in the double reeds and jangling percussion. We return to the West with a fugue on the original theme that leads to an exciting, accelerating finale.
Florida State University’s Wind Orchestra plays Orient et Occident:
Further program notes on Orient et Occident from the University of Maryland Wind Orchestra.
Finally, for those wondering what Turkish janissary music is: