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Saint-Saens: Danse Macabre

In the 1870s, Saint-Saëns, who was also a conductor, led some of the first French performances of the tone-poems of Franz Liszt. Consequently, Saint-Saëns was inspired to try his own hand at this form. Of the resulting works, "Danse Macabre" has certainly remained the most popular. Most of the music, however, actually dates from a few years earlier, when it was composed as a song for voice and orchestra, with text by symbolist poet Henri Cazalis. Saint-Saëns later ditched the voice, and reworked the piece to be closer to Liszt's symphonic model. The piece uses pictorial gestures such as moaning winds, church bells, and skeletons dancing a gruesome waltz on the xylophone. Following a tradition dating from the medieval era, a solo violin is used to personify Death in his role as a fiddle player.

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