Danse Macabre

By Camille Saint-Saëns

According to an old French superstition, Death appears at a graveyard at midnight on Halloween, “tunes” his violin (a very peculiar type of tuning), and calls forth the skeletons from their graves to dance – to their own type of waltz!

Saint-Saëns, who first performed this work in 1874, uses all sorts of unusual instrumental effects, including the xylophone and having the strings hit the wood of their bows on the strings (col legno) to conjure up the skeleton images. A cock-crow by the oboe heralds the dawn, when all of the revels cease and the skeletons return to their graves for another year.