What better to set the mood for Halloween than classical music? There are numerous dark, angst-filled classic masterworks that come to mind that match the dark sentiment of Halloween, but here are a couple of can’t miss, spooky classics.
1) Hector Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique
Symphonie Fantastique is easily considered to be one of the great masterpieces. Ask any musicologist – its ranks among the most seminal pieces in classical music history. Berlioz was known for his gift of orchestration. This particular work features something called idée fixe, which translates to “the fixed idea”. The fixed idea is a musical idea that occurs throughout the work.
One thing that makes the work truly chilling and superb for Halloween is the passionate incorporation of the Dies Irae from the Catholic mass. Possessing a music composition degree myself, Dies Irae has certainly made its way into my own work, thanks in part to the influence of Berlioz.
2) Camille Saint-Saëns, Danse Macabre
How legit is this as a classical music anthem for Halloween? Back when I was in elementary school, we sang a song using melody from this dark, hellish work. There’s even an old-school cartoon that shows the cemetery, skeletons, and all sorts of creepy things that match the mood of the music and of course a macabre itself… phew!
3) Modest Mussorgsky, Night On Bald Mountain
Mussorgsky’s horrifying classic is featured in Disney’s Fantasia. That said, it may be the most disturbing animated segment that the company has ever created. Strike that – it is the most disturbing animated segment that the company has ever created! n my elementary music classroom, I have showed the majority of Fantasia, but despite a G-rating, the Night On Bald Mountain segment never makes the cut. It is unsettling!
4) Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 5, Movement no. 1
This one is a given folks – no description needed! Even Judge Judy knows that (get it?)! Talk about some pent-up anger and aggression, Beethoven sure enough unleased it on the famed, ubiquitous first movement of his 5th. There’s also a pretty awesome Disco version – “A Fifth of Beethoven.”
5) J.S. Bach, Toccata and Fugue in d minor
Another twisted classical cut suited perfectly for Halloween, this classic is best known for the intensity created when performed on organ, as it was originally written. That said, Toccata and Fugue has been performed by orchestra (without organ), but that materialized later. And oh yeah, it’s also a segment from Fantasia.
6) Paul Dukas, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Sure, it’s hard to make Mickey Mouse scary (he wasn’t in Fantasia’s take on the Dukas masterwork), but The Sorcerer’s Apprentice itself has Halloween written all over it. Magic is definitely associated with all things occult, so why wouldn’t The Sorcerer’s Apprentice be included?
Photo Credits: Joseph Karl Stieler [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (Beethoven),