Various Artists

The Devil's Music

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The intent of this double-album compilation of tracks from other Naxos-label releases was doubtless to capitalize on the Halloween market in North America, and it could certainly provide a successful soundtrack for a Halloween party. The booklet notes are putatively provided by Lucifer himself. Several of the greatest hits of the satanic genre are present, including Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor (in the Stokowski orchestration), the Saint-Saëns Danse macabre, and Tartini's The Devil's Trill. As usual with Naxos, however, the fun is partly in the unexpected material the label has revived. It's not common to find music of the 20th century on an anthology like this, but the program includes not only Vaughan Williams and Stravinsky, but even György Ligeti (L'Escalier du Diable). This variety also makes the disc useful for those studying how the Devil has been musically represented over the centuries, even though the Bach is the earliest piece (the question has been on the table ever since medieval theorists defined the tritone as the Diabolus in Musica). While there are constants (minor keys with lots of minor-second intervals, virtuosity used in tortured ways), the concept of the Devil naturally evolves, through waltzes and other dances that conflate the demonic and the sensual, up to dramatic psychological studies like Arnold Bax's The Devil That Tempted St. Anthony, one of several unusual pieces included. Recommended for those who want to dig a little deeper for their Halloween music, or for students who want an instant term paper topic.

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