A late medieval meditation on life’s fragility, called the Dance of Death, stimulated the imagination of painters more than musicians. It was such a gloriously macabre 15th-century painting in Lübeck, Germany, by Bernt Notke—Death summoning folks from every station and walk of life—that inspired Hugo Distler’s 1934 choral work Totentanz (Dance of Death). Ruben Valenzuela’s…

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