The idea that classical music is boring couldn’t be further from the truth. Composers from past centuries knew how to make the hairs on your arms stand on end. And guess what? They used superior technology – such as seasoned symphonic orchestras and magnificent human voices – to make it happen.
Instead of listening to sterile digital tunes, make yourself (un)comfortable with fabulously scary performances of some of the best classical compositions ever written. We present you jewels from the ghastliest corners of the world of classical music – including the top 5 Halloween classical music compilations. You’re welcome.
Must-Have Halloween Classical Music Pieces
Before we introduce the ultimate five spine-chilling Halloween classical music collections, let’s have a glance at the compositions that appear in most of these compilations. These are some of the scariest, creepiest pieces of music ever written.
- Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns – In this authentic Halloween piece, Death is a violinist who prompts the ghouls to leave their graves and dance to his chilling melody.
- O Fortuna (Carmina Burana) by Carl Orff – While the entire Carmina Burana can serve as a perfect Halloween soundtrack, the movement called ‘O Fortuna’ at its beginning and end is particularly dramatic. It’s no wonder that the producers of The Omen have included this segment in the movie’s soundtrack.
- Isle Of The Dead by Sergei Rachmaninov – This symphonic poem by a Russian master of musical symbolism evokes the horror of being surrounded by the ghastly presence of death and swallowed by merciless cold waves.
- Ride of the Valkyries (The Valkyrie) by Richard Wagner – This musical depiction of war triumph was not meant to be a scary piece, but Francis Ford Coppola discovered its dreadful potential and included it into the soundtrack for the “Apocalypse Now.” We think he was right. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to this composition before, give it a chance this Halloween. It won’t disappoint you.
- Lacrimosa (Requiem in D minor) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – This famous movement from Mozart’s Requiem will give additional depth to the Halloween magic. ‘Lacrimosa’ depicts the guilty raised from the dead, weeping because they’re about to be judged. It starts gently and quietly but it makes you tremble within a minute.
- Dies Irae (Requiem in D minor) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – ‘Dies Irae’ follows the ‘Lacrimosa’ and creates the atmosphere of “a day of wrath, a day of tribulation and distress, a day of calamity and misery, a day of darkness and obscurity, a day of clouds and whirlwinds, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high bulwarks” (Douay-Rheims Bible). Mozart fell ill and died before he had a chance to finish his Requiem, which he referred to as his own funeral march.
- Dies Irae (Messa da Requiem) by Giuseppe Verdi – Another famous piece on the day of wrath, Verdi’s version is bursting at the seams with operatic tension and sizzling sounds from a multitude of voices.
- The Water Goblin by Antonin Dvořák – This piece was inspired by a story of a mischievous creature living in the depths of a lake with the unfortunate habit of drowning innocent people who come near his kingdom. In this poem, the water goblin gets mad at a young woman who escapes him, so he kills her baby in revenge. Horrible and horrifying, this masterpiece is only suitable for listening to during Halloween.
- Montagues and Capulets (Romeo and Juliet) by Sergei Prokofiev –There’s no need to explain what the story of Romeo and Juliet is about. However, this particular sequence is not about their romantic relationships or tragic end; it’s about hatred and conflict between their families. It is a fairly threatening and disturbing tune, and it’s perfect for Halloween.
- Gaspard de la Nuit by Maurice Ravel – The story behind this composition has it all: a seductive nymph, hanging corpse, evil goblin, and Satan himself. Ravel certainly had lots of fun when he composed this piece for a piano solo.
- In The Hall of The Mountain King (Peer Gynt) by Eduard Grieg – Peer Gynt’s journey through the Kingdom of Trolls is full of obstacles. In this piece, he’s captured by a nasty king and an angry mob of vicious trolls is about to execute him. Considering his grim prospects, this is definitely not a lovely tune.
- Allegro’ (Symphony No. 10) by Dmitri Shostakovich – We would normally expect a piece titled ‘Allegro’ to be cheerful, but not if it’s written by Shostakovich. Characterized by disharmonious noise, it is written to make you tense – and it will certainly make your Halloween more dramatic.
- Dance of the Dead by Franz Liszt – Also known as Totentanz, this piece is a direct product of Liszt’s fascination with death. In addition to his rich imagination, this composer loved to visit asylums, hospitals, and dungeons just to get a chance to explore the last days of death convicts – and he managed to convey this sinister atmosphere in his music. Trick-or-treaters will think twice before knocking at your door.
- Dream of a Witches' Sabbath (Symphonie Fantastique) by Hector Berlioz – This one will fill your room with bizarre sounds, funeral bells, and witches’ laughter. Hideous shades will gather and make your bones chill.
- The Funeral March (Piano Sonata No. 2 In Bb Minor) by Frederic Chopin – As the name says, this sequence is closely linked with impermanence and death. It follows the gloomy steps of the grievers, creating a depressing atmosphere and a horrifying sense of the ultimate destiny of us all. This piece was played at Chopin’s funeral and it is also a great choice for a perfectly scary Halloween.
- Night on the Bare Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky – Also known as Night on the Bald Mountain, this composition depicts an assembly of witches the night before the day of St John. The chaotic and wild atmosphere of witches’ sabbath was accomplished by devilish-sounding themes and bold effects. Near the end of the piece, the dawn scares the witches away, but there’s still something sinister in the air.
There are so many fantastically spooky classical compositions out there, and listing them all is impossible. We are yet to discover the frightening potential of long-forgotten compositions. So instead of trying to offer a definitive list, we’ve reviewed some amazing Halloween classical music albums. Pick one or many, and a magnificently eerie atmosphere is guaranteed.
Verdict: Best for those who enjoy many different styles of music.
With nearly ten hours of continuous music, this album will keep you up all night.
This large collection of Halloween-themed music compositions includes about half of the pieces we listed above and many more. You’ll have a chance to listen to a variety of compositions in the same vein, including Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky, and Chorus of the Witches: Che Faceste? (from Macbeth) by Giuseppe Verdi.
In addition to these, this album includes newer compositions, such as The Planets by Gustav Holst, and less-known ones. The collection also includes several sections of The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky (‘Glorification of the Chosen Victim,’ ‘Mystical Circles of the Young Girls,’ ‘Ritual of the Ancestors,’ and ‘Sacrificial Dance’ from Part 2: The Sacrifice).
There’s something for everyone in this album, including Dance of Demented Goblins, The Exorcist soundtrack, and more compositions that are not classics in a narrow sense, but which have found a way into the Halloween canon.
Another group of compositions worth mentioning are classical pieces that most of us wouldn’t consider scary under normal circumstances – works of Bach, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, and others. There are also some opera acts and arias.
Verdict: The longest collection of Halloween classical music.
This selection of horror pieces is pretty similar to the last one and it has the same advantages and same faults. It’s super-long: play it once, and you’ll have an all-night-long soundtrack. With more than 10 hours of non-stop music, this is the longest album on our list.
Just like the 99 Must-Have Halloween Classics, this selection contains some of the top Halloween classics. It also has lesser known and newer compositions, including those that are not classics – and those that are classics but are not completely suitable for Halloween. Some pieces, like the Nutcracker, might be scary at times, so it’s a good idea to include them.
Despite these similarities, the compositions are not the same on these two albums. For instance, this selection includes Gayaneh, Act III: Sabre Dance by Aram Khachaturian, The Flying Dutchman by Richard Wagner, and more.
Verdict: Best overall.
With 50 musical pieces and 5 hours of playtime, you could say that this album offers merely a half of the value of the previous two. However, this collection contains only classics, and only scary pieces. There are no other compositions added to boost the playtime.
So, if you’d like every tune to produce the authentic Halloween effect for you and your guests non-stop, this is probably the best choice for you.
Verdict: Best for those who look for a small collection of curated classical Halloween compositions.
This selection is made with great care, and even the number of compositions is just perfect for Halloween: 13.
Despite the small number of musical pieces, they match our selection to a greater extent than the previous three albums, so we totally recommend it. On the downside, it’s just one hour and a half of music, so unless you want to listen to the same compositions more than once, this album will not be long enough for a full Halloween night.
Verdict: Best for those who don’t really want to listen to the classics all night long.
While this is a great and totally appropriate Halloween album, it’s actually not a classical music collection. It’s rather a mix of newer compositions, mostly movie soundtracks, which make a standard choice for the creepy holiday.
It’s probably best to have one classical playlist and this one as well, because who knows what your guests or family members would prefer.
We hope we have helped you find the scariest Halloween classical music for your creepy evening. Check out our other reviews and recommendations. Happy Halloween!