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Friday, October 30, 2015

Musical Interlude For Halloween Weekend

The Memento Mori Dance of Death (1493) by Michael Wolgemut, from the Liber chronicarum by Hartmann Schedel

Franz Liszt's Totentanz (Dance Of Death):

About the composer Franz Liszt and the symphonic poem Totentanz (from Musical Musings):
Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was a Hungarian pianist, conductor and composer. He was one of the greatest, if not the greatest pianist to have ever lived. His technical and musical prowess was inspired by Niccolo Paganini after Liszt saw him play in a concert in 1832. He vowed to become as great a virtuoso on the piano as Paganini was on the violin.

He began composing early on and was a member of the German New School that included Richard Wagner. Indeed, Wagner became his son in law when Wagner married Liszt's daughter Cosima.

Liszt was the originator of the tone poem, or symphonic poem, a piece of music inspired by something non-musical such as a person, time in history or a place. Totentanz is a symphonic poem written for orchestra and solo piano. In the Romantic Age in which Liszt lived, there was a fascination with all things medieval. One of these interests were the illustrations made at the time of the Black Death (bubonic plague) in Europe. These gruesome pictures depicted death bringing the demise of people and celebrating by dancing. These pictures were called Memento Mori (Latin for 'Remember you will die') or The Dance Of Death. The composition was also inspired by a fresco seen by Liszt in Pisa, Italy in 1838.

Totentanz is a set of variations for piano and orchestra on the Gregorian Chant melody Dies Irae (Day Of Judgement). This is the same melody used in Rachmaninoff's Isle Of The Dead. Rachmaninoff also used it in two other compositions, the Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini and the Symphonic Dances. Berlioz also used this melody in his Symphony Fantastique, which Liszt heard at its premiere.

Totentanz opens with bass-heavy chords in the piano while the orchestra blares out the Dies Irae tune. The piano writing is very modern sounding even today with its percussive quality and dissonance. After the variations have run their course, the orchestra and piano collapse upon themselves in a final downward swirl of music that hits bottom, thuds, and ends.


  1. ________ All Hallows Eve ________

    Trick or treating, barren branches claw
    On rooftops ‘gainst the biting Autumn air.
    Jack O’Lantern flickers. Would he gnaw
    An arm away, or set aflame the hair ––
    Conspicuously real above the masks ––
    Kindling Kindergartners at the door?
    Only Satan’s own perform such tasks,
    Leering, lisping, limping as to war.
    Awake! All Hallows Eve lets loose the ghosts.
    No one escapes the Grave for long. Be wise.
    The Jack O’Lanterns flicker on the posts ––
    Each one a sentry for the Lord of Flies.
    Run home to mother lest the Evil One
    Nabs you, while you think you’re having fun.

    ~ FreeThinke - The Sandpiper, Autumn, 1996

    }}}}}}} _______ HAPPY HALLOWEEN! ______ {{{{{{{

    1. FT,
      We get no Kindling Kindergartners vagabonding on Halloween. Mr. AOW and I will have to eat the candy ourselves. **smile**

      PS: Thanks for adding the verse.

  2. Marvelous! Mr. B and I are listening after dinner. I appreciate your music notes, too

    1. Baysider,
      Glad that you and Mr. B. enjoyed this selection.

  3. How I celebrated Halloween...

    L.A. Theatre Works: Dracula.

    About L.A. Theatre Works:

    L.A. Theatre Works is a non-profit media arts organization based in Los Angeles whose mission for over 25 years has been to present, preserve and disseminate classic and contemporary plays.

    Our unique hybrid form of audio theatre and innovative use of technology in the production and dissemination of theatre keeps this venerable art form thriving, assuring wide and affordable access.

    Through our 10-play live in-performance The Play's the Thing Series in Los Angeles and in-studio recordings world class actors are recorded in state-of-the-art sound, complemented by intricate sound designs and on-stage effects, transforming classic and contemporary stage works into intimate, compelling and sound-rich audio plays. Our distinguished company of actors has included John Lithgow, Annette Benning, Hilary Swank, Anne Heche, Ed Asner, Alfred Molina, Marsha Mason, Jason Ritter, David Straithairn, Jobeth Williams, Paul Giamatti, Neil Patrick Harris, Laurence Fishburne, Jimmy Smits, Hector Elizondo, and Julie Harris, among hundreds of others.

    L.A. Theatre Works' Audio Theatre Collection of more than 400 recorded plays is the largest library of its kind in the world. Titles by Arthur Miller, Oscar Wilde and Sophocles rub shoulders with contemporary classics by David Mamet, Yasmina Reza, and Tom Stoppard as well as newer voices, including Jon Robin Baitz, Kenneth Lonergan, Rebecca Gilman, Lynn Nottage, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Julie Marie Myatt, and Lydia Diamond. L.A. Theatre Works' audio productions have received awards from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Writer Guild of America, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Audio Publishers Association, among others and is available in over 9,000 libraries throughout the U.S. and to the general public through our website, in-store and online retailers including iTunes and Audible.com

    Our weekly public radio show is heard by 7 million listeners annually in over 80 markets in the U.S. and is available on-demand, free of charge through L.A. Theatre Works' streaming site at www.latw org. Through our collaborations with the BBC, other international broadcasters, streaming and podcasts, our show is also a regular favorite with listeners across the globe.

    Our National Touring Program brings audiences at venues across the country the experience of a "live-in-performance" radio drama....

    1. Sounds like a pretty "high end" production! :)

    2. Thersites,
      Mr. AOW didn't attend. This was my first time going to a production at this particular venue, and I needed to scope it our for accessibility.

      Besides, Mr. AOW doesn't like to walk on the dark side the way that I do. I love all that scary, horror stuff.

  4. Well then, I hope you enjoyed it! And with luck, the venue will prove suitable for subsequent engagements.

    1. I have tickets for two concerts in this same auditorium. I wasn't happy with mast night's acoustics and hope that the echo was part of the show. Such reverberation will not be good for the music concerts.

      As for the venue working for Mr. AOW, I now know that he can attend events there. Easy and free parking, too!

    2. Great!

      And I hope that the acoustics work out!


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