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Camille Saint-Saëns – Danse macabre

Danse macabre

Camille Saint-Saëns
Danse macabre

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835 – 1921) / Giuseppe Gariboldi (1833 – 1905)
Danse macabre – Fantaisie Transcription

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C. Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre

Danse macabre (op. 40) is a symphonic poem for orchestra. However, the first version was a song with piano accompaniment. Saint-Saëns himself later made two versions for violin and piano and for two pianos. Further transcriptions were added by other composers, e.g. for solo piano and organ etc. Giuseppe Gariboldi wrote a "Fantaisie-Transcription" for the flute.

The composition is based on the poem by Henri Cazalis. In the 19th century, piano songs with dance of death stories had a special significance. (e.g. F. Schubert: The Death and the Maiden)

According to legend, Death appears at midnight every year on Halloween. He calls forth the dead from their graves to dance for him. The skeletons dance for him until the cockerel crows at dawn, then they must return to their graves until the next year.

The Poem "Égalité, Fraternité" von Henri Cazalis 
Translation: ChatGPT

Zig et zig et zig, la mort en cadence
Frappant une tombe avec son talon,
La mort à minuit joue un air de danse,
Zig et zig et zag, sur son violon.

Le vent d’hiver souffle, et la nuit est sombre,
Des gémissements sortent des tilleuls;
Les squelettes blancs vont à travers l’ombre
Courant et sautant sous leurs grands linceuls.

Zig et zig et zig, chacun se trémousse,
On entend claquer les os des danseurs,
Un couple lascif s’asseoit sur la mousse
Comme pour goûter d’anciennes douceurs.

Zig et zig et zag, la mort continue
De racler sans fin son aigre instrument.
Un voile est tombé! La danseuse est nue!
Son danseur la serre amoureusement.

La dame est, dit-on, marquise ou baronne.
Et le vert galant un pauvre charron—
Horreur! Et voilà qu’elle s’abandonne
Comme si le rustre était un baron!

Zig et zig et zig, quelle sarabande!
Quels cercles de morts se donnant la main!
Zig et zig et zag, on voit dans la bande
Le roi gambader auprès du vilain!

Mais psit! tout à coup on quitte la ronde,
On se pousse, on fuit, le coq a chanté…
Oh! La belle nuit pour le pauvre monde!
Et vive la mort et l’égalité!

Zig and zag and zig, death to the beat,
Knocks his heel on a tombstone,
Death's melody sounds at midnight,
Zig and zag and zig, fine on his violin.

The winter wind howls and the night is gloomy,
Groans come from the linden trees;
White skeletons walk through the shadows,
Hopping and jumping under their dead pile.

Zig and zag and zig, everyone fidgets,
You can hear the rattling of the bones in time,
A lustful couple sits down in the moss,
As if it rekindles old joys.

Zig and zag and zig, death plays on,
Endlessly scratching on his sharp instrument.
A veil falls! The dancer is naked!
Your dancer embraces her tenderly and knows.

The lady is said to be a marquise or baroness,
And the green gallant is a simple cart builder—
Scare! She gives herself to him,
As if the farmer were a permanent nobleman!

Zig and zag and zig, what a Sarabande!
What a dance of dead people, hand in hand!
Zig and zag and zig, you can see in the crowd
The king dancing next to the common man!

But shh! suddenly the dance ends abruptly,
You push yourself, you run away, the rooster has crowed...
Oh! What a night for the poor world!
Long live death and equality!

 

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