Enamored as a young man by the music of Schumann, Liszt, and Wagner, it was only a matter of time before Camille Saint-Saëns ventured into the realm of tone poems.
His first tone poem came in 1871 with Op. 31 Le Rouet d’Omphale (The Spinning Wheel of Omphale) which told the Mythological story of Hercules serving as slave to the Lydian queen, and running her spinning wheel in female attire by her side.
Danse Macabre tells the musical story of Death appearing at midnight every year on Halloween to play the fiddle, calling forth skeletons from their graves to dance until dawn. The story is an allegory for the universality of death. No matter one’s station in life, the danse macabre unites us all.
Memento Mori (reminders of death) are found in every culture and religion. They pop up in philosophy, art, architecture, literature, and (thankfully) music. Thankfully because I would rather listen to music than stare at skeletons all day.
No matter the source, Momento Mori can be useful tool for living a full life. It is a sobering thought to actually stew on, that we will all die, but the acceptance can be LIBERATING. When I view life through this lense, I find it easier to let go of things out of my control to instead focus what is important. It helps me savor the small pleasures of each day, and truly LIVE.
This sequence is the main melody from Danse Macabre. Although the subject is dark, Saint-Saën fills this piece with energy and life.
Play this sequence as if it will be the last thing you ever get to play! Strive for clear articulations and a bouncing waltz feel. Phrase over the barlines and through the quarter notes.
This sequence will help you improve your articulation, sound, and intonation.
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