As Halloween approaches, what better time to explore the darker side of classical music?
Great music can bring about many emotions – joy, reflection, melancholy, fear. Composers, like many artists, have always been fascinated with the subjects of death and the supernatural. Below are 5 creepy classical music pieces sure to get you in the Halloween spirit.
- Johann Sebastian Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
One of the most famous pieces associated with Halloween, villains and classic horror films like The Black Cat, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and even in Dr. Who. This organ composition fits in with a spooky atmosphere as it seems to warn curious onlookers about creaking boards and ghosts.
- Hector Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique
Berlioz uses a range of orchestral effects to create the scene of a gathering of witches–violins using the backs of their bows to create bubbling cauldron sounds, the sound of a funeral bell and outbursts of musical laughter.
- Modest Mussorgsky: A Night on Bald Mountain
Beginning life as a tone poem called St. John’s Night on the Bare Mountain, Mussorgsky’s most famous work was made more famous by its revision from Rimsky-Korsakov, and then its inclusion on the big screen. The image of brooding, winged ghouls wreaking havoc on a mountain village under cover of night has terrified generations of young children in Walt Disney’s Fantasia.
- Saint-Saëns: Danse Macabre
As the title suggests, this dark little dance has everything required to be included in a list of creepy compositions. It’s name, Danse Macabre, means “dance of death.” The piece tells the story of Death (a violinist, naturally) who made the dead rise from their graves on Halloween to dance to his sinister tune.
- Heinrich August Marschner: Der Vampyr
The vampires in film and teen novels today have nothing on the 19th-century European variety. This 1828 opera, which had some popularity in its time, is a story about Lord Ruthven, a vampire causing havoc in England. Marschner’s sinister chromatic writing and chorus of witches and ghosts is enough to put Twilight to shame.