Favorite 'spooky' classical music

October 27, 2015 at 01:05 AM · As we approach Halloween, I'm always tempted to listen to "spooky" classical music. Last year I made and posted a Top 10 list at The Classical Girl. I'd love to hear what might make other V.commers' "top spooky pieces" list.

Here's mine (in no particular order):

1) Paul Dukas, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”

2) Saint Saens, Danse Macabre

3) Sibelius, The Tempest, Act II, particularly “The Oak Tree” and “Caliban”

4) JS Bach, Toccata and Fugue in D-minor

5) Saint Saens, Symphony no. 3, first movement

6) Carl Orff, Carmina Burana “O Fortuna”

7) Prokofiev, Romeo and Juliet “The Montagues and Capulets" (also called "The Dance of the Knights”)

8) Mussorgsky, Night on Bald Mountain

9) Rachmaninov, “The Isle of the Dead”

10) Joseph Suk, “Scherzo Fantastique”

I've got links to all of these pieces, and a little more detail on each one, over at THE CLASSICAL GIRL

Okay, anyone else? I'm always hungry for new, quality, spooky music. : )

Replies (36)

October 27, 2015 at 01:27 AM · Please check out this old thread on basically the same subject:

Dark Pieces?

Repertoire: Bah, who wants light and energetic? I am looking for some pieces that are, well, dark. Haunting, chill-inspiring, vampirish, gothic, you get the idea....

From Rachael Hobb

Posted October 30, 2006 at 11:02 PM

I've been looking for dark-sounding pieces lately, both to listen to and perhaps to play (I confess, I have a love for darkly beautiful things.) but haven't really been able to find much...the only thing I've come that really comes close that I've found is the Shostakovich concerto.

So, are there any out there? I know it's a broad category, but I just am looking for stuff that can give me the chills, or at least give off haunting vibes...you know, a Halloween-ish aura to them.

I'll re-post my own posts but recommend everybody else's as well.

From Raphael Klayman

Posted on November 3, 2006 at 03:17 PM

I'll limit myself for the moment to violin solos that come to mind, and hope that I'm not repeating too much of what has already been said. There are different ways of thinking about "dark". I'm thinking not so much "Haloweeny", as deep, sad, contemplative, disturbing, etc.

Bach - Chaconne

Bach - F minor sonata for violin and keybord

Locatelli/Ysaye - F minor sonanta (Oistrakh recorded this.)

Franck - sonata, 3rd mvt.

Ysaye - sonatas #2 and 3. Chant D'hiver (Rosand recorded this.)

Prokofieff - concerto #1 and F minor sonata (-What is it about F minor?)

Shoshtakovitch #1

I 2nd or 3rd the motion re the Bloch Nigun

Elgar - concerto -esp. the 1st mvt.

Chausson - Poeme

Barber - concerto

There's also an arrangement of the Barber Adagio for violin and piano

Now I'll go outside the violin repertoire and mention three cello pieces with recorded recommendations:

Bloch - Schlomo (Rose)

Elgar - concerto (Du Pre, Ma)

Frank Bridge - sonata (Rostropovitch)

Now, to go further outside my box - for me so much music from the late Renaissance is bittersweet and haunting. Just a couple of examples:

Dowland - the song, "Flow my tears" and instrumental variations.

Byrd - mass for 5 voices. And a new reminder - just about anything by Gesualdo.

Bach - Passicaglia in c (for organ)

Mozart - Reqieum

Tchaikovsky - sym.#6

Wagner - Tannhauser overture

And finally - William Schuman Sym, #9 "The Ardiatine Caves"

Time to stop - I'm getting too sad! But of course, the process of listening and playing can be cathartic. [EDIT] [Flag?]

From Raphael Klayman

Posted on November 5, 2006 at 03:32 AM

I forgot to mention the Berg concerto. Also a lot of the music of Arvo Paart.

But in some ways the most mind-blowing listening experience I've ever had came while listening to the radio one Halloween night (while driving, no less!). In the New York area there is a staion, WNYC, which has a program once a week called "New Sounds". It's a sampling of what various kinds of composers are up to. It's not, from the programs I've caught, in the severe post Boulez sort of mode. It tends rather, to favor composers with Asian, Middle Eastern, and Celtic influences, and various kinds of fusion.

Anyway, one Halloween night, a good 5-6 years ago, while driving home from a gig, the host announces that he's going to play something that even by his open-minded standards is maybe the strangest thing they've ever broadcast. I think I remember the CD as "Angels and Insects", but I don't remember the selection. I think it was partly based on monastic chants, chopped up and mixed with various electronic things. Well, it wasn't good, or bad. I didn't like it or dislike it. All these words are beside the point. What I do remember is how it shook me to my core. I've never tried anything like LSD or Mescaline. With music like that, I suspect I have a pretty good idea. I'm still haunted thinking about it. I'd like to get hold of that CD. If it rings a bell for anyone, please let me know.

- I've just found some references on the net. I'll see where that leads me...

OK...The CD is "Angels and Insects". The selection that I think I heard is "Tabula Angelorum Bonorum" - with computer-expanded voices, and based on the work of a Renaissnce astroger, and a psychic medium.

Oh - and I wouldn't recommend listening to it while driving! [EDIT]

From Raphael Klayman

Posted on May 15, 2012 at 02:09 AM


Back when I originally posted, I forgot about this one. When I was a kid, back in the Jurasic era, there was a tv show called "One Step Beyond". It dramatized supposedly documented cases of esp, unxplainable phenomena, etc. A lot of it would seem pretty tame now - except that the music, by Harry Lubin, I believe, sold it. How could the music sell it? Just listen. And I dare you to listen to it in a completely darkened room! This theme was called "Fear". Can't imagine why. Will try to also get the other theme called "Weird". Pleasant dreams! (Now imagine diabolical laughter...)

Here is "Weird". Nighty, night! (If I had a handle-bar mustache now I'd be twirling it menacingly!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lWg1a5ybyE&feature=player_detailpage [EDIT] [Flag?]

From Raphael Klayman

Posted on May 15, 2012 at 02:15 AM

Oh - and has anybody mentioned the Ligeti music from the movie, "2001"? [EDIT] [Flag?]

October 27, 2015 at 02:09 AM · In the Hall of the Mountain King. Brilliant. (as long as it isn't done too fast like many performances - speed kills the desired effect, IMO)

October 27, 2015 at 02:18 AM · Is Chopin's Funeral March too dark for the list?

One Halloween a cellist and I played the Danse Macabre, Toccata and Fugue, but then came the Funeral March and the mood in the room changed drastically. The audience didn't like it! They were creeped out to the bones!

On more than one occasion people seem averse to listening to that one!

...so, on the spirit of Halloween,... success? ;)

October 27, 2015 at 03:07 AM · Raphael, WOW! - I'm going to have a great time checking out your suggestions there! (A funny thing about the Barber VC: I first listened to it in January, a California January, which means half sun, half rain, mild temps. I just LOVE the concerto. There's this touch of winter element for me - close enough to call that "Halloween" but it never fails to come off as California winter. As I commented on my Sibelius thread, it's amazing how one's first listening of a concerto (particularly if they listen to it roughly 200 more times within a few weeks) can imprint such strong memories and affinity on the psyche.

October 27, 2015 at 03:17 AM · Aaron, ooh, yes on "In the Hall of the Mountain King." Coincidentally (or maybe not), I've got Grieg's Peer Gynt on an October playlist, and I've been listening to it lots over the past week. Actually, I would put Grieg right up there with Sibelius in finding that delicious perfect touch between darkness and light (wait - Grieg was lighter. And the guy never wrote a violin concerto, so that, regrettably, knocks him down a level, too). I think all the Scandinavian composers have that same wonderful, occasionally spooky touch.

Fox - no way! I love all of Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2 (I'm a big Chopin fan) and when you listen to the whole 3rd movement (thats the official Funeral March, for those of you who didn't know) it's just brilliant. Love the way it switches from gloomy to uplifting, to melancholy, to gloomy, and the cycle repeats. Well, and there's something very tender in the middle. Ah, love Chopin.

October 27, 2015 at 12:05 PM · Terez - my pleasure.

Fox - I don't think anything is too dark for this thread!

BTW, while my specialty has always been classical, I have been very active in various kinds of pop music as well, including serving as Concertmaster for Ray Charles, Regis Philbin, Clay Aiken, etc. playing many shows, and even an all country concert. Right now I'm involved as CM preparing a revival concert for The Grateful Dead! So I'll add some non-classical things to the list as they occur to me. Not "Halloween-y" but in different ways dark and/or brooding is one of the songs we're doing - "Terrapin Station" - and it's so long - about 16 minutes! Another one that comes to mind is "Hotel California" (Eagles). Another one that I've always found moving, dark and sad is "Someone to Lay Down Beside Me" as sung by Linda Ronstadt. Also the longing - and the semi-imatative counterpoint! - of "California Dreaming" (Mamas and Papas)

October 27, 2015 at 03:38 PM · John Williams - Devil's Dance

October 27, 2015 at 03:53 PM · Raphael, if any of those pop songs stick in my head as a result of reading them here, I'm going to have a bone to pick with you... ; )

>John Williams - Devil's Dance

Yay, a new one for me! Thanks, Kenny.

October 27, 2015 at 04:34 PM · Lol!

October 27, 2015 at 05:46 PM · How about Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette" which Alfred Hitchcock chose as the theme for his show on the recommendation of his friend, the composer Bernard Hermann (who composed the famous prelude to "Psycho," another great spooky piece)?

October 27, 2015 at 06:39 PM · My favorite of this type is the "March to the Scaffold" from Symphonie Fantastique.

October 27, 2015 at 09:57 PM · With titles like "March to the Scaffold" and "Funeral March of a Marionette," how could I go wrong? Perfectly delightful grimness. ; )

Thanks, Alice and Tom! (And hi, Tom!! PS: just tried to reply to your comment on my Sibelius blog, but something keeps malfunctioning there. So, I'll use this space to say thanks for commenting on the blog!)

October 27, 2015 at 10:20 PM · I don't remember if I mentioned the haunting violin solo from the movie "Young Frankenstein" - something I've been known to play - super sotto voce - at a show when the lights go down!

October 28, 2015 at 01:34 AM · A few more deathly or "spooky":

Pavane for a Dead Princess by Ravel

XIX. Danse infernale de tous les sujets de Kachtcheï (Infernal Dance of All Kastchei's Subjects) from "The Firebird" by Stravinsky

"Totentanz" by Liszt

Death of Ase from Peer Gynt by Grieg

If anyone remembers the Gerard Hoffnung Festivals: the excerpt from Walton's Balshazzar's Feast: "SLAIN!" (After all the fanfare of getting everyone on stage, a fly is heard buzzing about, and the conductor brings down a fly swatter to the one note fortississimo "Slain!" from chorus and orchestra.)

Wagner Overture to "The Flying Dutchman"

"Pirates of the Caribbean" (everyone on 'the Black Pearl" is dead after all!

Beethoven "Funeral March" from Symphony No. 3

Beethoven "Funeral March" from Symphony No. 7

Mahler: Slow movement (Funeral March) from Symphony No.1 ("Three Blind Mice" slowly in a minor key) represeting the creatures of the forest in a procession taking the forester's dead body to his grave.

October 28, 2015 at 02:21 AM · Canticum Canticorum Salomonis by Krzysztof Penderecki. That piece will blow your mind!

October 28, 2015 at 02:52 AM · OMG!! I'm listening to it now! Thanks a lot - I think I'll have to sleep with a light on tonight - if I sleep at all!

This is, I understand, inspired by King Solomon's "Song of Songs". Hmmm...makes me think more of the Marquis de Sade. I think if King Solomon were alive now, he'd be turning over in his grave!

October 28, 2015 at 03:01 AM · Just found this one: "Sinister Resonance" by Henry Cowell


October 28, 2015 at 03:04 AM · Or this dark classic: "Black Mass" by Scriabin. Well, I hope there is a good late, late show on tonight...


October 28, 2015 at 03:16 AM · And while I'm burning the midnight oil - the Liszt Fantasy on B-A-C-H Listen to the organ rendition:


And of course, his "Faust" symphony. https://youtu.be/3ZUQ7yZTFco But for some healing, focus on the final movement.

October 28, 2015 at 03:51 AM · Oh, WOW, I'm going to have fun with this list over the next few days. Thanks, everyone, for the great contributions! Keep 'em coming...

October 28, 2015 at 04:18 AM · Well you can't forget the manic "Obsession" by Ysaye: Bach goes dark, with lots of Dies Irae woven throughout:

I have to say, though, that my favorite movement from this Sonata is actually the second, "Melancholia," which is quite spooky but in a much more subdued way:

October 28, 2015 at 03:50 PM · How about the 2nd mvt. of Beethoven "Ghost" trio.

October 28, 2015 at 04:57 PM · If we are going to include some eclectic off-classical area, I remember the band Dead Can Dance had many gothic themes in their earlier albums like that one with the statue on the cover and the one that was green.. (ok looking it up now:-) In the Realm of the Dying Sun, and Serpents Egg ).

October 28, 2015 at 05:17 PM · Wow, how could I have forgotten one of my favorite October-ish music soundtracks (and good job on the Pirates of the Caribbean recommendation!)? James Newton Howard's The Village, with violinist Hilary Hahn delivering just an astonishing performance. Incredibly good stuff and definitely falls under the "spooky" category.

check out a taste of it HERE.

Laurie - so glad you embedded you suggestions; very easy to check out!

October 28, 2015 at 05:23 PM · >Just found this one: "Sinister Resonance" by Henry Cowell

Well. THAT was different. Officially spooky, Raphael! : )

October 31, 2015 at 01:49 AM · Ruddigore? [Actually I HAD to attend a Halloween party two or three years ago. I turned up in a "Light Party Invader" (front motif) teashirt with a poster of Martin Luther on the back to celebrate that 31 October is also Reformation Day. So how about Mendelssohn 5?]

October 31, 2015 at 04:02 AM · I only have one on my list, and my teacher and I play it every year:

October 31, 2015 at 12:45 PM · Berloz Fantastique has already been mentioned for the March to the Scaffold, but how about the finale with its shrieking clarinets and various other spooky effects.

For the deepest descent into the abyss, the end of the Confutatis in Mozarts Requiem.

And various passages in late Schubert. The finale of the Death and the Maiden quartet always terrifies me, esp in the recap where theres a short passage in lieu of a development section with very dramatic dynamics, chords and modulations.

Apologies for punctuation... keyboard malfunction!

October 31, 2015 at 04:14 PM · Death and the Maiden is tame compared with the slow movement of the OTHER complete op posth Schubert Quartet!

Tame music, but with ghostly connections in either the title or what it accompanies include Valse Triste and the Polka from Schwanda the Bagpiper - plus, of course the various versions of Orpheus!

Schubert Opus 1 isn't so tame.

October 31, 2015 at 05:18 PM · Three or four beginners playing Twinkle in an echo chamber. Slow (well, they would be). In the dark (they can't see what they're doing). Who said "Twinkle" was easy?

"Twinkle" was used by Mozart and others, so I count it as classical.

October 31, 2015 at 05:48 PM · I've written my own virtuoso variations on "Twinkle"!

October 31, 2015 at 07:44 PM · John - agreed (maybe) - the 'other' Schubert quartet slow movement is equally scary - probably more so. As is the slow movement of the late A major piano sonata. I also find the ending of Beethoven 7 (symphony) quite terrifying, but not in a spooky way - jut a frightening display of elemental power.

I've just been listening to Haydn's quartet Op76 No2 - the one with the so-called 'witches minuet'. Unintentional, but quite appropriate to the season.

October 31, 2015 at 07:49 PM · Nearly forgot - how could I? The most terrifying chord in the whole of music (at least to my knowledge) - the entry of the statue of the commendatore in the last act of Don Giovanni.

November 1, 2015 at 01:03 AM · Love that part! Well, I love the whole Opera which I've been privileged to perform many times.

November 1, 2015 at 02:16 PM · Anybody mention Bartok?

Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta. A couple of the movements are really creepy.

November 1, 2015 at 02:24 PM · Oh, this continues to be so much fun to read! Thank you, everyone, for your great contributions. I think I'll continue to spook myself through the month of November with all these new suggestions. (Second movement of "Death and the Maiden", and especially at the end - Yes!!!)

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