Carlotta Ferrari (b. 1975) — Die Gerippe spielen zum Tanz (2019) for organ
"Der Gerippe spielen zum Tanz" (Totentanz) (2019) is inspired by a painting of the German-Jewish painter Felix Nussbaum (1904–1944). The painting is titled “Triumph des Todes” (Triumph of Death) with the subtitle “The Skeletons Play for the Dance.” The painting was made during 1944, the year that Nussbaum was murdered in Auschwitz (along with his wife). Nussbaum was born in Osnabrück and was educated in Hamburg, Berlin, and Rome. During Nussbaum’s time in Rome, Hitler’s propaganda minister visited to instruct the students in the proper subjects for making Nazi art to glorify the Aryan race. Nussbaum realized that he could not remain there, and he spent the next decade mostly in exile in Brussels. When Nazi Germany attacked Belgium in 1940, Nussbaum was arrested, eventually ending up in Auschwitz. He continued to paint until his death.
Ferrari’s Totentanz (death dance) is a free rhapsody, connected very specifically to aspects of the painting. The skeletons are the main character throughout, dancing a kind of grand valse (grand waltz). They remember the past, play the drums, fly the kites, blow the judgment trumpets, and eventually exit dancing and laughing. Musically, the piece is inspired by the notes on the musical score shown in the painting: a popular song of the time “The Lambeth Walk” from the musical "Me and My Girl" (1937). The song became hugely popular throughout Europe. A 1938 issue of The Times of London bore the following headline: “While dictators rage and statesmen talk, all Europe dances—to ‘The Lambeth Walk.’” In Ferrari’s work, the pitches of the song are changed into the minor mode and a new meter.