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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Turn of the 20th Century > Symphonic Poem, "Die Toteninsel" - Rachmaninov


Symphonic Poem, "Die Toteninsel"

Sergei Rachmaninov
(1873-1943)



"Die Toteninsel" ("The Isle of Death") is based upon Boecklin's famous painting of the same name and was written in 1909. It begins with a slow and mournful phrase in the harps with accompaniment in muted strings and kettle drums, followed by a figure in the cellos, which imitates the wash of the water as it breaks upon the strand of the Isle of Death. A theme follows in horns, which is also heard in other parts of the poem. After various episodes in the strings and horn, a climax is reached, in which a majestic theme is surrounded by the brasses. As it subsides, a new section of the work introduces a new theme in the strings, worked up to a climax. A figure next appears in the second violins with accompaniment of harp and cellos. A phrase for oboe leads to a suggestion of the first theme. The water motive of the first section brings the work, one of the most beautiful of all symphonic poems, to its close.





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