If you are listening to NPR right now, you might be hearing the Carnival of the Animals, or at least that's what I'm doing right now. That and telling Alex to go away. I feel bad of course, but really, when I say things like, "this is my favorite part!" she takes that as her cue to start telling me why, in excruciating detail pink is and always will be her favorite color.
I love the Carnival of the Animals because I grew up a bassist and it is one of the few orchestral pieces that features what I believe to be one the greatest instruments ever invented. And also, I love Camille Saint-Saens. He was a child prodigy, with perfect pitch and a fantastic memory. He learned the piano and organ, composed nice waltzes and gallops by the age of five and wrote his first symphony at sixteen. During his lifetime he was most famous opera was Samson and Dalila He was always surprised that the greater public gave him such high praise, yet constantly wanted to hear Samson and Dalila and ignored his other work. Over the course of his lifetime he composed more than 300 pieces and he was the first major composer to write specifically for the cinema. He might best-known today for Carnival of the Animals, a collection of pieces written for piano and orchestra, but it was never published or performed in full in his life time. Saint-Saens was afraid that the frivolous work might hurt his reputation.
I think what endures Saint-Saens to audiences still today is the way his music tells stories. Of course, who is better to interpret those stories than the artist at Disney Animation Studios. Here is a segment from Fantasia 2000 where flamingos tell the story of the Finale of the Carnival of the Animals.