Friday, April 2, 2010

Saint-Saëns - "Danse Macabre" - Trio

This is another work I have been meaning to post. The excerpt above is from Saint-Saëns' "Danse Macbre" for oboe, horn and piano (by David Plylar) and was the finale number during our previous tour. It's a work-out for all involved and also has the oboist frequently switching back and forth between English horn and oboe. I'll admit, if a few of the switches were any shorter, they'd be impossible, but it can be done, and frankly, it adds a little element of suspense for the audience to see if the performer can really make it!
That aside, it's a very faithful interpretation of an instantly recognizable work. Everyone gets to show off and the horn finally gets to be "brassy".

While rehearsing this work, I learned that this piece was originally a work for voice and piano; there are versions for solo piano, violin and piano, two pianos, and orchestra. After listening to a recording of the original version, I can perhaps see why he opted for further tweaking through transcriptions. It is by no means a comical piece, the subject matter being one of Death appearing at Midnight every Halloween and calling upon the dead to rise from their graves for the night.
Try to imagine the following melody line (starting on beat 2) with these words:

"Zig et zig et zag" 

The whole thing has this strange, almost "lounge" feel to it and at least for me, really failed to give an ominous or spooky vibe. There is something about the French language that doesn't sound right for the mood of this work in this particular instance. I think the other versions are far more effective.

I couldn't find any YouTube clips of the vocal version, but here is an amusing rendition none the less...

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