Camille Saint-Saëns’ The Swan, also known as Le cygne (Lowercase here deliberate.), is a staple of the cellist’s repertoire but is also so immensely popular that it has been modified and played on many other instruments, including the theremin. This was transposed from the original key of G to the new key of C to make it possible for one of my viola students to play using similar fingerings to what I would use on a violin.
For random details behind the music, Camille Saint-Saëns prohibited any of the pieces from the musical suite The Carnival of Animals, excepting this one, from being publicly performed while he was alive. He was worried that people would lose respect for him if they heard the other lighthearted pieces in the musical suite. He had a reputation as a serious composer to maintain. Fortunately, the rest of the suite was performed after his death. Many people then got to enjoy the music and many others were inspired. In fact, Ogden Nash wrote a set of poetry that is sometimes recited with performances of The Carnival.
There are many existing viola arrangements, but I wanted my student to do specifically what I have written out. My objections to other versions was frequently in the bowing or fingering… or lack thereof. This particular arrangement has many audible slides and the opportunity to build sound with separate bowstrokes when going upward. It is overall gentle and smooth, so legato everything and choose intensity and placement of vibrato carefully. The bowing must be very well-regulated and the player must not be stingy about bow use.
To download free sheet music for “The Swan” or “Le cygne” by Camille Saint-Saëns transposed to C and fingered for viola as a .pdf, please click here: