Certain classical music masterworks have been used in countless musical scores in film and television, not to mention cartoons and TV commercials. You may not have been aware, a vast majority of the classical music you’ve heard were originally written as symphonies, marches, sonatas, or operas as far back as the 18th Century. Many of these classical music pieces are so recognizable, when you hear them you instantly associate it with a TV commercial, cartoon, or movie you may recall from your childhood or even recently.
Some of these masterpieces have a deep association with horror, suspense, war, adventure, and other similar film genres, especially for Halloween. These are the top ten classical music works used for Halloween that just about everyone will agree with. They evoke feelings and emotions of fright, fear, terror, danger, death, and suspense. Some of the more mellow music will give you a creepier, spookier, eerie, and haunted feeling. If you want some Halloween music to set the right mood, tone, and atmosphere for your Halloween gathering, here is the perfect music list for you.
10.) The Ride of the Valkyries (Die Walküre)- Richard Wagner: It comes from the beginning of the third act in this grand opera composed in 1851. In popular culture, this has a strong association with the film “Apocalypse Now”. You hear this piece during the famous scene with all the helicopters in the sky, during the Vietnam War, as they spray napalm on the villages below. Shortly afterwards, the famous movie quote of “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” is uttered. For Halloween, you can conjure up images of witches on broomsticks and a swarm of ghosts flying through the air when this music is played. Check out all the music on YouTube:
YouTube – Wagner – RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES – Furtwangler. Each one will feature their own link.
9.) Funeral March (Piano Sonata No. 2) – Frederic Chopin: Talk about a very somber piece of music if ever there was. I vividly remember hearing this music in the Looney Tunes cartoons with Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and the gang. Whenever a cartoon character was facing death or died (and was miraculously resurrected later on) you would hear this very eerie death march. What great music to have for Halloween. YouTube – Classical – Chopin – Funeral March
8.) Hungarian Dances (No. 5 in G minor) – Johannes Brahms: One of 21 Hungarian dances composed, but No. 5 is the most popular and famous of them all. When you listen to it you automatically think of gypsies dancing around the campfire. It certainly is one of the livelier musical pieces to have on the list for Halloween as night music. This has a haunting element to it. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful addition to Halloween music that’s been used in countless films, TV shows, commercials, and other media. YouTube – Brahms, Hungarian Dance No. 5Related Videos
7.) Flight of the Bumblebee (The Tale of Tsar Saltan Opera) – Nikolai Rimsky- Korsakov: It’s actually an orchestral interlude that closes out Act III of an opera. You can hear this musical piece in a current TV commercial for some nasal spray with a bumblebee flying around and Antonio Banderas’ ultra-sexy Spanish accent voiceover. However, for Halloween it has a very thrilling sound to it. When you listen to the music, envision ghosts scurrying about flying all over the place. YouTube – Rimsky Korsakov – Flight of the bumblebee
6.) Peter and the Wolf – Sergei Prokofiev: A children’s story that is spoken by a narrator accompanied by a full orchestra. It features a great deal of tension and the element of the hunt in this composition. This adds up to a brilliant combination for Halloween. My favorite recording of “Peter and the Wolf” is by Patrick Stewart of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” television series fame. YouTube – Prokofiev – Peter And The Wolf March
5.) A Night on Bald Mountain – Modest Mussorgsky: Featured in the 1940 Disney animated film classic, “Fantasia”. The composer was inspired by the Russian literary works and legend by wanting to make it a witches’ Sabbath as the theme from an original tone poem. It’s almost as if it were written specifically for Halloween. The music features highs and lows and up and downs throughout it. You may recall there was a disco version featured in the soundtrack of “Saturday Night Fever” during a scene when the boys, after a night out at the disco, decide to goof around on the bridge spanning Brooklyn to Manhattan. This is actually a scary moment in the film for me. YouTube – Mussorgsky – Night On Bald Mountain
4.) The Carnival of the Animals (Aquarium, 8th Movement ) – Camille Saint-Saens: Comprises of fourteen movements, this musical suite is a favorite among music teachers as a teaching tool for class. The “Aquarium” is the eighth movement that has a sort of mystical and magical quality to its sound, something you’d find in a Harry Potter film soundtrack. However, this piece was featured in the 2008 film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”. A nice, quiet piece of music that is haunting too. YouTube – The Carnival of the Animals: The Aquarium
3.) William Tell Overture (Storm) – Gioachino Rossini: You may recognize it as the Lone Ranger theme, however; this overture to an opera features four parts to it. The second part has the dynamic storm music played by a full orchestra. You’ve no doubt heard it played in old Hollywood films and cartoons whenever there was a storm at sea or some other very dangerous situation. It definitely sends shivers every time I hear it. When you watch it on Youtube the storm music begins at the 3:20 mark. YouTube – Rossini – William Tell overture (Part 1)Related Videos
2.) Carmina Burana (O Fortuna) – Carl Orff: This one stops me in my tracks every time I hear it. You get so involved emotionally with this massive choral and orchestral piece you feel like you just ran a marathon. It is a scenic cantata based on 24 poems from a medieval collection titled, Carmina Burana. O Fortuna is the opening, as well as the closing, best known movement of this enormous work. There have been countless movies that have featured this extraordinary musical work of art as a way to build suspense in a climatic, tense-filled moment. YouTube – Carl Orff – Carmina Burana, O Fortuna / Excalibur Theme
1.) Toccata & Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 – Johann Sebastian Bach: The very moment you hear the opening note from the organ you will definitely recognize this masterpiece. It is considered one of the most famous works in organ music ever composed. You hear this music today ranging from films, video games, rock music, and even cell phone ringtones. If you really want to scary people this is the premiere Halloween music of all time to have in your music library. Whenever I hear this played, it sends chills up my spine. Oftentimes, it has been deeply ingrained in our psyche as music we grew up with from watching old horror movies on TV. Without question a stellar piece of classical music to play on Halloween night. YouTube – Toccata & Fugue in d minor (BACH, J.S.)
You can watch and listen to these famous classical music pieces on Youtube and purchase or download them at www.amazon.com and www.classicalarchives.com for your Halloween get-together, party, or when handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. Some of the music may be too spooky or frightening for many, even though it was composed centuries ago.