Danse macabre, Op. 40, is a tone poem for orchestra, written in 1874 by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. It started out in 1872 as an art song for voice and piano with a French text by the poet Henri Cazalis, which is based on an old French superstition. In 1874, the composer expanded and reworked the piece into a tone poem, replacing the vocal line with a solo violin.
With a title that includes the word “macabre”, you can tell it’s a great piece for Halloween. This is by far the most famous work associated with the holiday, and with good reason. It is a tone poem inspired by a French legend that says “Death” appears at midnight on Halloween to call forth the dead from their graves to dance for him. He plays the fiddle while skeletons dance until dawn.
Get a free copy of the sheet music at IMSLP (Look for Arrangements and Transcriptions) or borrow a copy from the O’Connor Music Studio. I have this arranged for organ, piano, duet, simplified…
Amazon has a great Dover edition for solo piano. This splendid compilation features a variety of the composer’s best piano works, all reproduced from authoritative sources. Taking its title from the popular orchestral work “Danse Macabre” (presented here in the brilliant arrangement by Liszt), this collection also includes “Allegro appassionato,” “Album” (consisting of six pieces), “Rhapsodie d’Auvergne,” “Theme and Variations,” plus six etudes, three waltzes, and six etudes for left hand alone.
• 1934 ~ Cole Porter recorded his own composition titled, You’re the Top, from the show “Anything Goes”, on Victor.
• 1935 ~ A talented twelve-year-old sang on Wallace Beery’s NBC radio show on NBC. Judy Garland delighted the appreciative audience. The young girl would soon be in pictures and at the top of stardom. It would be only four years before Ms. Garland (George Jessel gave her the name, thinking it would be better than her own, Frances Gumm) captured the hearts of moviegoers everywhere with her performance as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”.
• 1944 ~ Michael Piano, Singer with The Sandpipers
• 1946 ~ Keith Hopwood, Singer, guitarist with Herman’s Hermits
• 1952 ~ NBC~TV premiered Victory at Sea. The show was the first documentary film series to gain wide acceptance. Richard Rodgers wrote the score and Robert Russell Bennett orchestrated it. No Other Love, adapted from one of the songs in the score, became a hit for Perry Como in the summer of 1953.
• 1953 ~ Keith Strickland, Drummer with The B-52s
• 1956 ~ Walter Gieseking, German pianist/composer, died at the age of 60
• 1962 ~ The Rolling Stones consisting of Keith Richard, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, pianist Ian Stewart and drummer Tony Chapman recorded their first demo tape at Curly Clayton Studios in Highbury, London. They recorded three songs, Jimmy Reed’s ‘Close Together’, Bo Diddley’s ‘You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover’ and Muddy Waters’ ‘Soon Forgotten.’
• 1965 ~ The Beatles received MBE medals from the Queen of England, as they became Members of the British Empire. Ceremonies were held at Buckingham Palace. John Lennon returned his medal four years later in protest of Britain’s involvement in the Nigerian Civil War.
• 1971 ~ Memphis minister Al Green received a gold record for his single, Tired of Being Alone.
• 1984 ~ Barbra Streisand won multiplatinum certification for three albums that reached the four-million-dollar sales mark. “Greatest Hits, Vol. II”, “Guilty”, and “A Star is Born” (with Kris Kristofferson) were honored.
• 2001 ~ Laszlo Halasz, the first music director of the New York City Opera, died at the age of 96. Halasz became the opera’s first director in 1943. During his eight-year tenure, the New York City Opera became an important training ground for young singers. The company also became an important venue for new works. Born in Hungary, Halasz studied at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, where his teachers included Béla Bartók, Ernst von Dohnanyi, Leo Weiner and Zoltán Kodály. He made his professional debut as a pianist in 1928, but in 1931 decided to focus on conducting. He came to New York in 1936, and when the New York City Opera was formed in the fall of 1943, Halasz was appointed its music director. The company’s first season included productions of Puccini’s “Tosca,” Flotow’s “Martha” and Bizet’s “Carmen” Halasz conducted the company’s first American premiere, Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos,” in 1946, and the opera’s first world premiere, of William Grant Still’s “Troubled Island,” with a libretto by Langston Hughes. But the opera’s board was uneasy with Halasz’s ventures into modern opera. When the board insisted in 1951 that Halasz submit his repertory plans for approval, he resigned. The board ultimately relented, but when Halasz became involved in union disputes later that year, the board fired him. After leaving City Opera, Halasz began a second career as a record producer. He also conducted opera at houses in Frankfurt, Barcelona, Budapest, London and South America. As a teacher, he was on the conducting faculty at the Peabody Conservatory, in Baltimore, and the Eastman School of Music, in Rochester, N.Y.
• 2001 ~ Herbert Weissenstein, a consultant who specialized in classical music, died at the age of 56. Weissenstein began his career in 1970 as public relations director for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He moved on to the New York Philharmonic and in 1979 became director of development and strategic planning at Carnegie Hall. In 1984, he founded H.F. Weissenstein & Co., which specialized in consulting, directing seminars, and publishing articles in the fields of management and development. His clients included the Electronic Media Forum, the Folksbiene Yiddish Theater, the Manhattan Theater Club, the International Organization for the Transition of Professional dancers and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.