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Music in the Making

Macabre Musical Storytelling

Featuring a special musical selection just in time for Halloween!


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On this week’s episode of Music in the Making, we’re listening to compositions that were inspired by historical, philosophical and legendary stories!

Music in this episode:

Olivier Messiaen – Quartet for the End of Time (1941)
Maureen Nelson, violin; Brian Connelly, piano
Duncan Recital Hall

In addition to being regarded as a significant work of classical music, our first selection is also known for the remarkable conditions that led to it’s composition. In 1940, Frenchman Olivier Messiaen was captured by German forces in World War II. Imprisoned with a clarinetist, violinist and cellist, he convinced one of the guards to smuggle him paper and pencil with which to write a piece of music for this unusual quartet. His final product was the Quartet for the End of Time, which was premiered at that same prison a year later to a small audience of fellow prisoners and guards.

Camille Saint-Saens (arr. Cowan) – Danse Macabre (1874)
Ken Cowan, organ
Edyth Bates Organ Hall

Our next selection is a piece inspired by the French legend that Death plays his violin at midnight on Halloween to bring the rest of the dead to life for an evening of dancing and merriment. At dawn, they must return to their graves and look forward to next year’s celebration. While originally written for orchestra, this particular performance is given by solo organ, giving the composition a more frightening texture.

Bernt Notke’s Danse Macabre, as seen in St. Nicholas’ Church, Tallinn, Estonia

Richard Strauss – Also Sprach Zarathustra (1896)
Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra; Larry Rachleff, conductor
Stude Hall

And our last selection this evening is a famous work by Richard Strauss, most notably used in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, the real inspiration for this composition was German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s novel Also Sprach Zarathustra. Throughout this piece, Strauss tries to interpret Nietzsche’s writing about the conflict between Humanity and The Universe. However, he is inconclusive when he ends the work ambiguously between two dissonant notes.

This episode originally aired Sunday, October 25th, 2015. Catch Music in the Making every Sunday at 7:06 PM on Classical 91.7.