Totentanz

A spectacular and hair-raising performance by Hungarian pianist György Cziffra of Liszt’s 1859 paraphrase with variations, Totentanz.

The dance of death (or, danse macabre) was brought to the forefront of European human consciousness during the 14th century by famines, war, and the Black Death. Its musical representation is in the plainchant dies irae, and its derivative, the death and the maiden motif, both of which appear in other visual and musical works of art, either directly or thematically, such as Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.

Among the most interesting of the musical treatments are:

  • Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini, and over a dozen of his other compositions
  • Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death and A Night on Bare Mountain
  • Shostakovich’s Symphony 14, Piano Trio No. 2, and String Quartet No. 8
  • Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14
  • Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique
  • Verdi’s Requiem
  • Britten’s War Requiem
death-and-the-maiden egon schiele 1915

Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden (1915)

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