The next composer that might need our attention in this series intended to help people pronounce French composers’ names is probably Camille Saint-Saëns.
The diacritic, the mark, on the e is called a tréma in French. It consists of two dots ( ¨ ) placed over a vowel, used to indicate diaeresis. It is very clear in a word like maïs (corn): the combination of a and i would give an è sound, but the diaeresis is here to prevent this combination: mah – eess.
Now, sincerely, as a French person, I would say that Saint-Saëns’ name is also confusing for us. The tréma appears on a vowel followed by an -n, usually triggering a nasal sound… In this context, what is one supposed to do with the diaeresis?!
Anyway… Here’s the MP3:
And here is a great HD video of Saint-Saëns’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor, performed by Grace Fong and Chee-Yun during the 2009 Innsbrook Institute.
Did you know that Saint-Saëns died in Algiers?
Was this helpful? Is there any other name (composer, piece, instrument, etc.) that you would like to see on these pages? Just post a comment or find me on Twitter: @tonalfreak.