The Danse Macabre is a symphonic poem by the French composer Camille Saint - Saëns (1835-1921). The work was premiered on January 24, 1875 under Édouard Colonne. Forerunner of the orchestral work was a song with piano accompaniment in 1872.

The piece is based on the eponymous poem by Henri Cazalis (1840-1909). "Danse Macabre" stands for death dance. Notable in this composition is in particular the use of the xylophone, an instrument that gives the impression that the music is performed on human skulls.

SaintSaënsDanseMacabreThe composition opens with twelve midnight chimes, played on a harp. The overture by cellos and double basses introduce the Death which raises the deads from their graves. Death opens his violin score with a melody in a diminished fifth, also called devil's interval (G-D-A- Es instead of the regular violin tuning G-D-A-E).

Through a thematic structure of string instruments the piece reaches its majestuoso: in imagination come more and more deads from their graves and begin to dance with each other. The poor man is dancing with the rich woman, death knows no differences. Fuller and heavier sounds the melody, as if the skeletons are hunted by the wind, in the knowledge that they have to return in their graves before sunrise .

When eventually the cock crows, played on an oboe, the dance is over and we suddenly hear slamming the tombstones. The death remains as last behind, sitting on a gravestone, and playing on his violin a farewell tune.