Choral Thrillers for All Saints Day

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

York Minster in the Fog (karlequin/flickr)

Today on The Choral Mix, a spooky assortment of choral thrillers for the week of Halloween and All Saints' Day (Nov. 1). We hear portrayals of ghosts in a locked cathedral, settings of Edgar Allen Poe, a group called Diabolus in Musica (the "Devil in Music"), and demons conjured by Edward Elgar. 

About the Show:

One of the most terrifying pieces that comes to mind is Hans Werner Henze’s Symphony No.9. The text, written by the poet Hans-Ulrich Treichel, is based on the 1942 novel Das siebte Kreuz (The Seventh Cross) by Anna Seghers, in which seven prisoners attempt to escape a concentration camp, with only one of them surviving. In the sixth movement, Nachts in Dom (Night in the Cathedral), an escapee seeks solace locked overnight inside a cathedral. The music conjures voices of the dead speaking from the walls.The organ plays by itself in off-kilter keys. Performing is the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Kurt Masur with the Berlin Radio Choir and Kent Tritle at the organ.

Dmitri Kitajenko leads the Danish National Radio Symphony and Choir in a performance of Serge Rachmaninoff's The Bells. The poem by Edgar Allen Poe is sung in Russian and their sobbing, in their throbbing what a tale of horror dwells.

The late medieval name for the dreaded tritone (Do-Re-Mi-Fa#) is diabolus in musica and it was forbidden in religious settings. A vocal ensemble specializing in early music has taken the name. We play two pieces from Diabolus in Musica's new album that lament the death of the beloved composer Johannes Ockeghem.

Edward Elgar’s otherworldly oratorio, The Dream of Gerontius captures the essence of the demon choruses. We play hear this classic choral thriller sung by The Ambrosian Singers with the Halle Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli. Perhaps the most recognizable piece on today's show is Mozart’s Dies Irae from his Requiem. The day of wrath is truly terrifying under the direction of John Eliot Gardiner leading the Monteverdi Choir and the English baroque soloists.



Kurt Masur, NY Philharmonic, Berlin radio Choir, Kent Tritle, organ;

Hans Werner Henze (b.1926): Symphony No.9 (U.S premiere)

Die Nacht im Dom (Night in the Cathedral) 18:01

NYP label


Dmitri Kitajenko, The Danish Nation Radio Symphony Orchestra & Choir

Sergey Rachmaninov (1873-1943): The Bells (Kolokoa) Op.35

Mvt III Presto (9:28)

Chandos Records


By Diabolus in Musica (The Devil in Music) from their new CD "Plorer, Gemir, Crier" (Weep, Groan, Cry)

Pierre de La Rue: Plorer, Gemir, Crier et Braire/Requiem 

Josquin Desprez: Nymphes des bois/Requiem 4:17

Jacob Obrecht: Missa Sicut Rosa Spinam/Gloria 6:53

Released 2012 by AEON


Elgar / Dream of Gerontius: Demons Chorus.

Halle Orchestra, Ambrosian Singers, Sir John Barbirolli

Mozart Requiem: Dies Irae (1:45) Confutatis (2:26) and Lacrymosa (2:50), JE Gardiner, English Baroque Soloists


Diabolus in Musica

Comments [4]

francis booth from new york city

dear maestro,
is not the "tuba mirum" from hector berlioz's "grand messe des morts" a good candidate for your collection of scary selections, music for all hallows' eve.? does it not also fit hand in hand with that terrified observer sitting with head in hands,in michaelangelo's "last judgement" on the sistine chapel wall?

neat program tonight

Oct. 29 2012 12:23 AM
Dona from San Jose, CA

Camille Saint Saens - Danse Macabre - The first time I heard it I was 12 or 13 yo, and it froze me, 40 years later ... it still does! Happy Halloween. GO GIANTS!!!

Oct. 29 2012 12:04 AM
David Glatstein from Inwood, Manhattan, NYC

The first piece I ever sang with a real chorus was Mendelssohn's "Die erste Walpurgisnacht" so the spooky has been with me right from the start.

Enjoyed the show. Thanks and Happy Halloween to Kent, production people, and listeners!

Oct. 28 2012 08:06 AM
Gary Ekman from Manhattan NYC

The medieval purity of Diabolus in Musica forms a perfect backdrop as dawn comes up over a New York City waiting for the storm. A sense of serenity and acceptance, as we realize that we are at the mercy of forces of nature larger than ourselves and can only resolve to ride it out, and help our fellow citizens wherever and whenever we can.

Oct. 28 2012 07:39 AM

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