Best Classical Music for Halloween

Our Favourite Classical Music for the Halloween Night

It's Halloween again, and children are excited to go out later today in their spooky costumes and enjoy the trick-or-treating fun. 
Perhaps some of you have also planned a hocus-pocus dinner party, in which case we have some 'spooktacular' music recommendations to listen to this evening. It could be the perfect opportunity to revisit some of the most iconic classical music repertoire, and to introduce the younger generation to classical music. 
You can, of course, listen to this music at any time, but tonight is just the perfect occasion to put on some of the most famous classical pieces that have become the Halloween Classics. Scroll down to discover our selection of the best classical music for Halloween.

Bach - Toccata and Fugue in D minor

Something about the opening notes of Bach’s Toccata And Fugue In D Minor instantly strikes fear in the listener. Perhaps it’s the blazing pipes of the Draculean organ, or perhaps it's the rumbling bass pedals beneath that. This powerful toccata and fugue must be executed with demonic virtuosity, and it's probably the most famous piece of organ music written. 

There are numerous arrangements of this piece for piano, so you may be able to play it too - just speak to your teacher. 

Mozart - 'Dies Irae' from Requiem

Mozart’s Requiem was the last piece he ever wrote; he fell ill during its composition and died before its completion. In a grim, self-fulfilled prophecy, he even commented, “I am writing my own funeral music. I must not leave it unfinished.” This ‘Dies Irae’ is a solemn but mighty setting of the Catholic liturgy, with massive choral forces darkened by intense strings, dense brass and rumbling percussion.

Chopin – “Funeral March” from Piano Sonata No. 2

Our Halloween music list wouldn't be complete without the famous "Funeral March", the 3rd movement from Chopin's Piano Sonata No.2. The music becomes super lovely and relaxing once you get past the dark-sounding central theme representing the march. 

This is one of the best pieces of piano music for Halloween and one of the darkest Chopin wrote. It has been played at numerous funerals, including Chopin’s own burial in October 1849 at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Tchaikovsky - "The Witch" from Children's Album

Composed as a homage to Schumann's Kinderszenen, the composer intended for the 24 easy pieces in his Children's Album to be played by children. The twentieth piece is usually called "The Witch" in English but refers explicitly to Baba Yaga, a monstrous old witch from Slavic folklore.

Listen to a 6-year-old pianist performing this piece. Perhaps this could be the next concert piece for you too? 

Liszt - Totentanz 

“Totentanz” translates as “Dance of the Dead” in English. It joins several other works by Franz Liszt, showing his fascination with death. In fact, it is said he frequented hospitals and asylums and even went down into prison dungeons to see those condemned to die. 

Totentanz is an unapologetically virtuosic piece for piano with accompanying orchestra, based on the Dies Irae plainchant in 6 variations. Here's a brilliant recording with the Ukrainian-American pianist Valentina Lisitsa. She is one of the most frequently viewed pianists on YouTube, who sold out her debut performance at the Royal Albert Hall after attracting an internet fan base of millions.

Sergei Rachmaninoff - Prelude in C-Sharp minor 

This brooding prelude is one of Rachmaninoff's most famous compositions, as well as one of his first: he composed it as a 19-year-old graduate from Moscow Conservatory. The juxtaposed fortissimo and pianissimo passages suggest the tolling of bells and their echoes, and the piece picked up its nickname, "The Bells of Moscow," quite early in its life. 

I performed this piece in one of my online concerts during the lockdown, and a live recording is on my YouTube channel

Grieg – “In The Hall of the Mountain King” from Peer Gynt

The translation of the title of this piece from Norwegian isn’t quite literally “mountain king”. The “king” in this instance, is actually a troll that Peer Gynt invents in a fantasy. The musical narrative follows Peer Gynt's adventure through the Kingdom of the Trolls. Tiptoeing pizzicato strings introduce the well-known main theme to one of the best pieces of classical music for Halloween.

The introduction of this movement is, “There is a great crowd of troll courtiers, gnomes and goblins. Dovregubben sits on his throne, with crown and sceptre, surrounded by his children and relatives. Peer Gynt stands before him. There is a tremendous uproar in the hall.”

Liszt - Totentanz 

‘O Fortuna’ is the immense opening and closing movement of Orff’s cantata Carmina Burana. The theatricality of this piece creates unbearable tension: the quiet, frantic strings, the cold, barely whispering choir, the massive force of the orchestra, but most significantly, the sudden eruptions into fortissimo with wailing sopranos and crashing percussion. Used widely in popular culture, perhaps most famously as the soundtrack to the film The Omen, this is as much a piece of production music as it is a classical tour de force.

The above musical tips represent just a tiny selection of what could be quite an extensive list of music. You can find numerous Halloween music playlists online, should your heart desire more spooky music tonight. And please, share some of your favourites!

Andrea  🎃🕷👻

- Founder and Director of Piano Maestros