Ride to the abyss: Mephisto in music
As the saying goes, "the devil has all the best tunes". It's certainly a persuasive argument when it comes to the world of classical music. Strap yourself in and smell the sulphur on a hair-raising ride into the abyss with Mephisto in his many guises.Read more…
Goethe's Faust legend is where we're most likely to encounter Mephistopheles, with settings by Gounod, Berlioz and – symphonically – Liszt. Mephisto's humorous Song of the Flea has been set by several composers.
Arrigo Boito even gives the devil the title role in his opera Mefistofele, excerpts from which top and (forked) tail this playlist. In the Prologue, Mefistofele braves the heavenly choir to challenge God, betting that he can win the soul of the elderly scholar, Faust. By the Epilogue, the devil is thwarted as Faust, clutching the Bible, finds salvation. Mefistofele whistles his contempt.
The devil takes many guises, cropping up as Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress, Bertram in Meyerbeer's Robert le diable and Anton Rubinstein's The Demon. He is also Chernobog in the original choral version of Mussorgsky's Night on Bare Mountain. The devil dances too, although Offenbach's Infernal Galop from Orpheus in the Underworld isn't exactly scary.
Rumour had it that virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini owed his extraordinary skill to having sold his soul to the devil. Therefore, his fiendishly taxing Caprices pepper this playlist.
[Due to geo-blocking restrictions, some tracks might be unavailable in certain territories.]