About this Recording
8.578085-86 - DEVIL'S MUSIC (The)

The Devil’s Music


“I have no pleasure in any man who despises music. It is no invention of ours: It is a gift of God… Satan hates music: He knows how it drives the evil spirit out of us.” Martin Luther

Luther may have been an expert on theology, but he was way off the mark regarding my feelings towards music. On the contrary, from the time I was God’s favorite and in charge of music in Heaven, to when I was so rudely and wrongfully booted out of His kingdom to the infernal regions, music has been my constant muse as I have pursued my life’s work throughout the ages.

Moreover, I have always used music to instill the evil spirit in people, not drive it out of them. For Luther’s impudence, I used my influence in high places to have him excommunicated from the Catholic Church by Pope Leo X in 1521. It’s widely believed that he was driven out for protesting the selling of indulgences (one of my proudest innovations), but I feel the time has come to set the record straight, especially as Naxos Records has decided to give the Devil his due with this two-disc compilation of some of my favorite music—all of it inspired by the dark satanic wonderfulness of me.

It’s high time, too. Despite the negative reputation that has dogged my every move, I have, in fact, been the most generous of demons, gifting humanity with avarice, lust, envy, pride—all the things that make life worth living. I have also given the gift of music by providing inspiration to composers (usually through their dreams) that I have felt a special affinity with. Of course, my greatest and most infamous disciples have been rock and rollers—The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Slayer, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, to name but a few. But centuries before these longhaired outlaws sang my praises, scores of similarly coiffed musicians were writing symphonies, operas, sonatas and the like in my honor. Even though the phrase, “the Devil made me do it” wasn’t coined until the 1960s, it could just as well have been said by Eve when she tasted the forbidden fruit.

So postpone whatever good deed you were just about to do, clear your mind of virtuous thoughts, indulge in the politically incorrect stimulant of your choice, and turn your stereo up really, really loud so you can incense your neighbors as you listen to this sinfully transcendent collection of music suffused with the darkness that enshrouds my heart and, I hope, yours.

Naxos could not have chosen a more appropriate work to lead off this collection than Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.” This piece has appeared in some of my favorite horror films—Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1931), The Black Cat (1934), The Raven (1935)—to create an atmosphere of dread and impending doom. It still sends chills up and down my spine. Originally written for the organ, it’s presented here in Leopold Stokowski’s transcription for orchestra, which creates a more expansive soundscape for this malefic masterpiece.

“The Devil’s 5-Hop,” from Harald Saeverud’s Peer Gynt Suite, Op. 28, is a diabolically infectious dance number, one of many that acknowledges my terpsichorean tendencies. (Back in the Middle Ages, I used to attend village dances and wouldn’t stop until my partners died from exhaustion. Great fun!) Saeverud’s piece is distinguished by a jaggedly propulsive melodic line and imbued with a touch of the macabre—wholly appropriate for a man who was born on the site of a former graveyard and place of execution.

There are, of course, many musical works based on Goethe’s Faust, that irresistible narrative in which I make a bet with God that I can lead his favorite scholar from the path of righteousness into moral corruption and guilt (always a winning combination). Hector Berlioz gives it the full orchestral and vocal treatment in his La Damnation de Faust, Op. 24 – Part 4, Scene 19, raining down thunderclaps of sound and fury upon the listener, while the contemporary composer Michel Meynaud takes a completely different approach with his “Faust” cello sonata, utilizing the mournful sound of that solo instrument to evoke a stark and desolate aural landscape that hauntingly evokes the torment of a damned soul.

Another favorite of mine is Giuseppe Tartini’s “The Devil’s Trill Sonata.” The composer acknowledged that I appeared to him in a dream in which I played the violin such with otherworldly virtuosity and artistry as to leave him humbled with awe. Upon awakening, he wrote down as best he could the music I conjured for him, naturally adding his own compositional genius. It quickly became one of his signature works, but it is said that whoever plays it forfeits ownership of their soul to none other than yours truly.

Satan loves dissonance, which is one reason why I love the music of Charles Wuorinen. His “The Mission of Virgil – 7 Satan” (for two pianos) is a remarkably accurate musical portrait of me—atonal, dissonant and disturbingly compelling. Franz Liszt’s “Mephisto Waltz,” performed here on solo piano, reveals the (often overlooked) darkly sensual side my personality. Monsieur Igor Stravinsky contributes two spirited numbers from his Histoire du soldat (“The Devil’s Dance” and “Triumphal March”), reflective of my love for martial music, which, happily for me, perhaps unhappily for mankind, seems never to go out of style. Richard Wagner’s disquieting “Faust Overture” brings disc one to a stunning close. I never tire of this densely textured, richly chromatic work resonant of emotional and moral corruption.

Opening disc two is Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Danse Macabre,” which was used so presciently in Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game to evoke the encroaching darkness of the Second World War, one of my signature achievements. This orchestral tone poem is melodically seductive, with a discreetly diabolical quality that never fails to move me. This is followed by two more dazzling orchestral works: Sergei Prokofiev’s “Mephisto Waltz” (from his Waltz Suite for Orchestra, Op 110), which seamlessly conflates triumphant and tragic emotional states; and Franz Schubert’s “The Devil’s Pleasure Castle,” an engaging musical depiction of where I go to unwind after a hard day of bargaining for souls.

Arnold Bax’s “The Devil that Tempted St. Anthony” also captures me well, with its spiky descending motifs and astringent tonalities; as do the harsh tone clusters and provoking energy of Charles-Valentin Alkan’s “Esquisses, Op. 63 – Les Diablotins.” Alkan was my kind of composer— reclusive, misanthropic, and prone to sending people to the devil. Continuing in an experimental vein is György Ligeti’s “L’escalier du Diable,” from his Etudes, Book 2. Although not as dark as some of his more famous compositions, this piece has a rhythmic and harmonic discordance that adventurous listeners should fi nd simultaneously unsettling and rewarding. Rounding things off are several more large-scale orchestral works from Robert Schumann (“Scenes from Goethe’s Faust”), Charles Gounod (“Le Veau D’Or est Toujours Debout”), and Franz Liszt (Faust Symphony). These large-scale pieces, full of fi re and brimstone, evoke in the most dramatic musical terms the line separating good and evil.

In fact, all of the music in this collection will leave you in no doubt as to which side of that line I stand. So instead of listening to the same dull works that celebrate Him, why not cross over to the dark side, where the music is as hot and challenging as Hades? I’ll tell Cerberus to let you in.


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