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Spooky Playlist for Halloween

October 24, 2013

There is so much scary, spooky music out there, Halloween is practically a classical music holiday. This is just a beginning sampler ranging from ghost stories to haunted house staples. Have fun.

  1. Toccata from “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 (Bach).
    Aside from the arresting opening, this piece isn’t so scary, in my opinion. But it’s at the top of everyone else’s list.
  2. “The Spiders” from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (John Williams).
    The orchestra does a great job of suggesting spiders descending from their webs on strands of silk. The rest of the cue turns into action music, which John Williams is a master of.
  3. Funeral March of a Marionette by Charles Gounod. London Symphony Orchestra.
    A spooky classic that was used as the theme song for the old television show Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Definitely a Halloween special.
  4. “Gnomus” from Pictures at an Exhibition (Modest Mussorgsky, orchestrated by Maurice Ravel). Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Simon Rattle, cond.
    The uncrowned king of creepy classical has to be Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. Practically everything he wrote is scary, including this freaky picture of scuttling earth spirits.
  5. Danse macabre (Camille Saint-Saens). Gil Shaham, violin, Jonathan Feldman, piano.
    One of the most popular violin pieces out there, I always pictured dancing skeletons when I heard this piece as a kid.
  6. “Largo assai” (movement 2) from the “Ghost” Trio (Op. 70, No. 1, Beethoven). Beaux Arts Trio.
    The soft, opening in octaves of this movement, gave the “Ghost” Trio its name. Unlike the other pieces, this piece is unsettling, rather than scary, like a person haunted by memories. But there is a brief ray of light in the form of a beautiful, consoling melody.
  7. “Lake in the Moonlight” from Swan Lake (Tchaikovsky). Philadelphia Orchestra, Riccardo Muti, cond.
    A beautiful, moonlit lake needs enchanted princesses, or a prehistoric, underwater monster — take your pick.
  8. Overture to The Flying Dutchman (Wagner). Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, Karl Böhm.
    Out of the sea mist appears a phantom ship with blood-red sails, manned by a crew of the damned. And it’s all there in this overture, which tops my list for actually scary music.

Michael Zwiebach is the senior editor/ content manager for SFCV. He assigns all articles and content, manages the writing staff and does editing. A member of SFCV from the beginning, Michael holds a Ph.D. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley.