There are a plethora of classical pieces appropriate for Halloween. The best known are arguably Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain and Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King. Here are my suggestions for a slightly less typical, yet spooky program. They are also great pieces to listen to and get you in the mood for a night of tricks and treats!
Rachmaninoff was inspired to compose Isle of the Dead after he saw a black-and-white reproduction of Arnold Böcklin’s painting by the same name in Paris in 1907. The image is of a boat bearing a coffin to a fortress on a mysterious island. Rachmaninoff’s musical interpretation begins with the sound of oars in the water, represented by an irregular 5/8 meter. The urgency of the music increases as the boat approaches the island. Then, the Dies irae – the Gregorian Chant from the Mass for the Dead – takes over. Briefly, there is a struggle with music that sounds full of life, but the Dies irae theme is stronger. At the end, the piece comes full circle, returning to the relentless sound of rowing oars.
Halloween is upon us. If you go to any orchestra concert or listen to classical radio during this time you are likely to hear Halloween greats like “Night on Bare Mountain” (Mussorgsky) from Disney’s Fantasia, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” (Grieg), or even “Symphonie Fantastique” (Berlioz). They are classically spooky and fun. If your performers or Classical DJ’s are real professionals, they might even program Piano Sonata No. 2 in Bb (Chopin), which has the famous funeral march theme that everyone hums when trouble is near. Now you know where it’s from; thanks Chopin.
If you’re willing to delve a little deeper, I’ll show you some truly dark music filled with passion and despair. Music you may not know, but music you’ll love from composers you love. Who knew that the same composers who were capable of writing such beautiful music were also able to pull out frightening melodies, disturbing harmonies and unidentifiable orchestral colors. These striking compositional techniques can be likened to combining half the crayons in your box and coloring over and over again in the same area of a blank canvas. Let’s start things off by first visiting the more “The Ultimate Classical Halloween Program”…