Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Danse macabre. Op. 40 - Saint-Saëns
Danse macabre. Op. 40
The "Danse Macabre," or "Dance of Death," is based upon a grotesque poem by Henri Cazalis, beginning "Zig et zig et zig, la Mort in cadence." Death is described as a fiddler, summoning the skeletons from their graves at midnight for a dance, the hour being indicated on the harp. The ghastly merriment, interrupted by some sombre strains, is kept up until the cock crows, the signal for the instant disappearance of the grim and clattering revelers. The poem is based upon two themes -- one in dance measure, punctuated with the clack of bones, and the other a more serious strain, symbolical of night and the loneliness of the grave. The variations upon these two themes continue until the cock-crow, given out in the oboe, sounds the signal for the close. The poem, in a word, is a waltz measure set off with grotesque, but ingenious instrumentation.