The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Happy Halloween! Vote for the spookiest classical music you know. | October 31, 2012

ALERT:  On Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Wind Ensemble Chamber will perform a FREE concert of “Integrales” b, Edgard Varese; “Rondino” by Ludwig von Beethoven; and Kammersymphonie (Chamber Symphony), Op. 9, by  Arnold Schoenberg. Scott Teeple (below) is the conductor and Scott Pierson is the guest conductor.

By Jacob Stockinger

Today, Oct. 31, 2012, is Halloween in the U.S., although many celebrations took place last Saturday night to benefit from the weekend.

It is the night of scary hobgoblins and ghosts. It is also the time when disguises and costumes often reveal rather than hide one’s true identity.

But most of all it is a chance for spooky art – Houses of Horrors, Ghost stories and Horror Movies – and The Ear wants to know what you think is the scariest or spookiest music ever written.

For many people, it is Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain.” Here is a link to one performance on YouTube:

The Ear knows one person who likes to play loud organ music – Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor – for young Trick-or-Treaters. And he is not alone. Take a look and listen at various versions of the famous organ piece at NPR’sDeceptive Cadence” blog where you’ll be treated, not tricked, by the blog’s makeover and new appearance:

You can also hear Halloween-related music today on Wisconsin Public Radio, especially on The Midday (noon to 1 p.m.), which will, I expect, have a Quiz Question related to Halloween. For information or to stream programs, visit

I recently heard a wonderful and absorbing  live performance by the all-student University of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra of the famous “Symphonie Fantastique” by Hector Berlioz (below)that includes hallucinatory drugs and a death march to the scaffold and gallows.

And I was struck how the clarinets are used to create a very eerie, even frightening sound, in the Witches Sabbath section. It is a masterful use of orchestration by Berlioz.

Take a listen and let me know.

What do you think is the spookiest or eeriest piece of classical music for Halloween?

Vote for your favorite by leaving a COMMENT in the blog section of this blog, preferably with a link a YouTube performance, if possible.



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    Comment by Kami — October 2, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

  2. Today, I went to the beach front with my children.

    I found a ssea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter
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    Comment by Florentina — October 2, 2013 @ 9:48 am

  3. Philip Glass’s “Dracula” music is very disturbing. Pipe organ music played loudly in a minor key, including Bach but especially Cesar Franck, is ominous in the dark. Chopin’s funeral march is scary in the first section. So is that popular Tchaikowski piano study that he grew to hate; what is it? I was told as a kid that it described premature burial — waking up in the grave, the struggle in the coffin, defeat. I was easily scared by music, including the opening theme of “Dragnet” and “Peter and the Wolf.”

    Comment by Ron McCrea — October 31, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

    • Hi Ron,
      What an excellent creepy choice.
      Devilishly good!
      And not usually listed.
      But you are completely right.
      It’s like Liszt’s “Mephisto Waltz,” another good one I failed to think of.

      Comment by welltemperedear — October 31, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

  4. I have always thought the flute sonata by Lowell Liebermann is very eerie and spooky!

    Comment by Casey — October 31, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

    • By the way, if you watch this video, the first movement is 0:00 through 11:25, then the second movement starts around 11:30. There is no third movement!

      Comment by Casey — October 31, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

    • Hi Casey
      Great suggestion, unknown, I am sure, to most readers and listeners.
      And thank you for the warning about the video and how it is divided.
      Happy Halloween.

      Comment by welltemperedear — October 31, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

  5. […] Classical music: Happy Halloween! Vote for the spookiest classical music you know. ( […]

    Pingback by 50 Spookiest Movie Kids | | Netflowers – HOME — October 31, 2012 @ 2:33 pm

  6. I would vote for Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain,” though the rest are pretty creepy too. But maybe because Mussorgsky’s piece was in “Fantasia” and so that leaves a real impression.

    Comment by Genie Ogden — October 31, 2012 @ 10:08 am

    • Hi Genie,
      It’s a fine choice, and you are far from alone for the reason you like it.
      I also remember it as theme for late night TV shows that screened horror movies.
      Happy listening!
      And Happy Halloween!

      Comment by welltemperedear — October 31, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

  7. Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, by Krystof Penderecki, a chilling amalgam of orchestral moans
    sighs and screams…a clearly Post-Modern Halloween, with some real ghosts behind the music.

    Comment by Michael BB — October 31, 2012 @ 8:04 am

    • Hi Michael,
      Thank you for the suggestion.
      I don’t know it, but will check it out.
      I trust your judgment, and the title is certainly suggestive.
      And as a Polish composer, Penderecki surely saw his share of Nazi and Communist horrors.

      Comment by welltemperedear — October 31, 2012 @ 8:34 am

  8. How about the “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saens?

    Comment by Tim Drexler — October 31, 2012 @ 6:54 am

    • Hi Tim,
      An excellent choice!
      I don’t know why, but I think of that one together with Gounod’s “Funeral March for a Marionette,” which was used as the theme song for Alfred Hitchcock’s TV show.
      You can hear the bones dancing on the xylophone!
      Thanks, and Happy Halloween!

      Comment by welltemperedear — October 31, 2012 @ 8:31 am

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