Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Isle of the Dead” — Sergei Rachmaninoff (1908)


There’s a couple of options I can exercise when introducing a classical piece. On one hand, I can do a basic recap of the song which acts as little more than a watered-down Wikipedia entry.

Or I can talk about the song itself and what it means to me and why I feel it’s a significant entry to our ongoing playlist of Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs.

And that’s what I usually do. But not today. I ran a half-marathon this morning and quite frankly I’m exhausted. And my knee is growling at me. Which kind of totally sucks.

I WILL say this, though: Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Isle of the Dead is a wondrous slice of late-Romantic spooky elegance. Inspired by a black and white reproduction of Arnold Böcklin’s painting of the same name (see above), Rachmaninoff perfectly evoked the painting’s imagery through concert music, a 21-minute journey into the afterlife which both thrills and chills to the gills.

Maybe Isle of the Dead won’t make your party playlist, but it’s not a bad number to play on Halloween night as you ponder your own mortality. Yeah, I’ll be drinking with you on that one, friends. Enjoy!

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