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Exploring the often surprising links between concepts, themes and people in classical music, from medieval to modern


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Saturday, October 25, 2014 Permalink

The Demonic Connection

The Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493).


From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!

So goes the old Scottish prayer--and this hour, with demonic music by Mussorgsky, Saint-Saens, Britten, Bernstein, and more.

There is something about exploring the dark and fearful side of things that takes us out of ourselves for a little while.  We experience fright, then relief as we return to the safety of our real-world lives. It’s why ghost stories and scary movies are so popular—and why so many composers have put it to use. 

As Victor Hugo once noted, “Music expresses that which cannot be said--and on which it is impossible to be silent.”



CD Title Group/Artist Catalog # UPC
Danse Macabre Philharmonia Orchestra, Dutoit Decca 425 021-2 028942502123
1000 Years of Gregorian Chant (History of Music, Disc 3) Deller Consort Harmonia Mundi HMX2908165 794881783229
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique London Symphony Orchestra, Colin Davis LSO-Live LSO0007 822231100720
Liszt: Klavierkonzerte 1 & 2, Totentanz  Krystian Zimerman , Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa Deutsche Gramophone D 105620 028942357129
Chadwick: Symphonic Sketches, MacDowell Suite Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Hanson Mercury Living Presence 434337  028943433723
Dvorak Symphony No. 6, Water Goblin, etc. Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, Zdenek Kosler Opus 99570 [Re-released on Brilliant Classics] 5028421995700
Vaughan Williams: Job, A Masque for Dancing London Symphony Orchestra, Boult EMI Classics CDM 5672202 724356722026 
Bernstein: Dybbuk / Fancy Free Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Mogrelia Naxos 8.559280  636943928028
Britten: The Turn of the Screw Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Daniel Harding Virgin Classics 4563792 5099945637926
Orchestral Music of Sibelius, Larsson, Sallinen & Rautavaara Musica Vitae Chamber Orchestra, Petri Sakari Chamber Sound CSCD-9102 (none)
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition, etc. Montreal Symphony, Charles Dutoit Decca 417 299-2 028941729927

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