The Carnival of the Animals for two flutes

Without a doubt, The Carnival of the Animals is one of the most popular compositions by Camille Saint-Saëns and one of his most loved works. For this refined divertissement, the composer choosed a peculiar, heterogeneous ensemble – that reflects the chamber origin of the Carneval and offers a wide rage both expressive and colouristic- composed by a flute (ottavino, too), a clarinet, a glass harmonica, a xylophone, two pianos, two violins, a viola, a cello and a double-bass. So, it’s understandable that the publishing of a two flutes version is surprising.

That was the taks of Duo Noble, made up by the flautists Jennifer Seubel and Sally Beck. This arrangement is regularly and successfully performed since 2010; finally it was published by the publisher Bärenreiter. The Carnival of the Animals is a complex, articulate composition, it’s really hard to manage it even for a two pianos reduction, therefore the choice to arrange it for two flutes it’s really brave (the two flautists wrote in the preface at Bärenreiter’s edition that «reducing an orchestral work to two voices is, of course, a great challenge»). Obviously, is not possible to wholly convey Saint-Saëns’ masterpiece with only two instruments, the work of Maestros Seubel and Beck was about the general structure of the composition, the main charateristics like the most important melodies or peculiar timbres; in order to do it, they tenaciously exlpored all the resources of the instrument, by marking the most its potential. The result is incredible; the score is not only technically challenging but performable, but musically is very interesting. Certain original charateristics must be clearly abandoned (one for all, The elephant), but this strange, fascinating reduction keeps intact all the magic of Saint-Saëns’ work.

Moreover, the reduction allows the flautists choose the most appropriate instruments for the performance in order to obtain greater timbric variety; the same authors point out that both parts of the second piece and the first part of per seventh piece could be performed with piccolos, furheremore in a video released by Jennifer Seubel and Sally Beck some pieces are performed by combining a flute with a alto flute; in conclusion, there are different possible combination that enrich this exquisite work.

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