Sunday, October 26, 2014

Camille Saint-Saëns - Danse Macabre

The Dance of Death
Halloween is later this week, which means we need classical music with a spooky edge.  Fortunately, that's not hard to come by - you just have to get a little more adventurous with composer selection.  And quite frankly, it's hard to gt more adventurous than Camille Saint-Saëns, the late romantic French composer.  He was a child prodigy, possessed perfect pitch, and more importantly had the mind of a polymath: in addition to his many musical compositions he published scientific papers on the acoustics of ancient Roman amphitheaters, wrote the first score for a motion picture, and sailed through the newly completed Panama Canal to conduct an orchestra in San Francisco.

This piece is based on a poem by Henri Cazalis, from a very old French superstition.  Each year Death appears at midnight on Halloween and summons the dead to rise and dance while he plays his fiddle.  The piece opens with a harp playing a single note, repeated twelve times: the clock striking midnight.  The E Flat and A violin chords that follow are sometimes called the "Devil's chords".  The piece is spooky and vigorous all the way through until the end, when the music quietens to a pianissimo as the dead return to their tombs as dawn breaks.


Chris Byrne said...

This has always been one of my favorite pieces of music... so evocative... transporting even.

Old NFO said...

I remember my neighbor playing that for Haloween a few years ago... :-) Scared the you know what out of the kids... :-D

Chickenmom said...

What a great selection, Borepatch!
Thank you & hope you are quickly mending!

greg said...

When it comes to spooky classical music, my list starts and ends with Night on Bald Mountain, by Mussorgsky. I remember that section of Fantasia was the scariest thing I remember seeing for many, many years.

libertyman said...

Hoping you are on the mend and that our music class is back in session! Great and timely choice.

Just back from Maine, so didn't have a chance to attend class this morning.

Best wishes for your speedy recovery.