Saint-Saens – Samson and Delilah Sequence

This Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah was one of the first pieces by SS that I had the pleasure of playing. The piece has beautiful melodies that so expertly capture and outsiders view of the middle east, and an almost primal energy that makes me think of the religious energy that has catalyzed the activity of the region for so long. 

This opera was premiered in Weimar in 1877 after facing some challenges on the way to the stage because of it’s portrayal of Biblical stories. Franz Liszt played a huge role in arranging for the premiere, and thank goodness! This remains one of Saint-Saens’ most famous works and is his only opera that is performed regularly. 

Plot

Samson has made a name for himself as a great warrior with incredible strength that he derives from his long hair. He has risen to a leadership role in a Hebrew revolution against the Philistines but cant help but notice the beautiful Delilah. Samson gets seduced by Delilah and tricked into giving up the secret behind his strength. She betrays him to the Philistines who ambush him, bind him, and cut off his hair. 

This bacchanale is the music played when the Philistines are celebrating their victory. It begins gently, and grows into a wild frenzy where we are introduced to the theme of this sequence. 

Practice

Strive for an energized, brilliant sound, like war horns blaring in the distance. Phrase through the 8th note groups towards the quarter notes, and make sure the first note of each slur group begins with a clear articulation. 

This sequence is great for working on quick breaths, subtle phrase shapes, and will help you refine the difference between half steps and whole steps.

Happy Practicing!

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This sequence begins at 6:04

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