Johann Strauss II - Kaiser-Walzer (Emperor Waltz), Op. 437

Strauss often played in the glittering Imperial balls, conducting the orchestra and playing the first violin at the same time.   The majestic launch of this fascinating waltz presents the backdrop of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the hegemony of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph in 1888. Johann Strauss II was Music Director of the Dance Hesperides of the Imperial Court from 1863 to 1872 and composed on occasion for the celebration of an imperial anniversary. The ingenuity of the melody of the Emperor Waltz, which was originally orchestrated for a full orchestra, is such that it was easily adapted for the four or five instruments of a chamber ensemble by the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg in 1925. This waltz is a tender and somewhat melancholic work, which at times turns its gaze nostalgically to the old Vienna. The waltz praises the majesty and dignity of the old monarch, who was fully devoted to his people. It begins with a majestic, magnificent march, which soon re

Saint-Saëns - Danse Macabre, Op. 40

The deadly forms of this work reflect the gloomy mood presented by the Danse Macabre of Saint-Saëns.

Saint-Saëns's defense of new ideas in music wasn't just theoretical. He was responsible for many musical modernities. A perfect example of these modernities is the symphonic poem he developed with his friend and hero Franz Liszt. Saint-Saëns was the first Frenchman to compose in this form.

The Danse Macabre is one of his most popular symphonic poems. He processes a traditional history and paints it with great emotional depth with the virtuosity of the instruments and orchestra. The subject of death represents a skeleton that leads the living to the tomb and has its roots in the symbolism of the Middle Ages. In the 19th century this theme had developed into a midnight feast of resurrected skeletons.

The composition of Saint-Saëns originally wanted to be the musical version of a modern French poem, showing Death playing the violin in the icy courtyard of a church, while the skeletons of the dead stand up and dance its demonic melody.

Saint-Saens's innate ability to dramatize music appears more than ever in this macabre version of a traditional story. The clever orchestration that produces a universally creepy effect is an element of his legendary talent.

The work begins with slow, careful, distinct notes that announce the advent of midnight and the macabre result is achieved almost immediately by a slow waltz on the solo violin. The swirling melody accelerates as the instruments combine to create the sense of death's triumph over mortals. Then suddenly, an oboe that mimics the cock's lap at dawn announces the advent of the dawn light. The skeletons return to the graves as Death acknowledges that his time has passed.

When the French audience first heard the Danse Macabre in 1875, they did not appreciate the modernity of Saint-Saëns and greeted the work with such noisy boos that the composer's elderly mother fainted. Today it is considered one of his most popular works.