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8 Scariest Classical Pieces For The Horror Genre

6 Scariest Classical Pieces For The Horror Genre

Part Two

1. Schoenberg’s Erwartung

For some listeners terrified of atonal music, almost anything Schoenberg wrote could have made this list. But the German composer’s one-act opera Erwartung (Expectation), an extended monologue for solo soprano, is one of his most confronting, intensely paranoid psychological experiences.

A lone woman wanders through the woods at night searching for her lover. When she stumbles upon a tree trunk that she believes to be his dead body, a tirade of fears and emotions is unleashed. At the cruel climax of the work, she discovers the real body. It’s no walk in the park.

On Youtube…

Arnold Schoenberg: Erwartung op.17 (1909)

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951): Erwartung, monodramma, libretto di Marie Pappenheim op.17 (1909) — Magda László, soprano — Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI diretta da Hermann Scherchen (dal vivo: Torino 6 novembre 1953)

2. Rachmaninov’s The Isle of the Dead

In the solemn opening strains of Rachmaninov’s symphonic poem, we hear plaintive oboe and gloomy clarinets as the composer depicts the sound of the oars of Charon cutting through the waters of the river Styx, bringing our immortal souls ever closer to the underworld. In short, a bit of a downer.

On Youtube…

Rachmaninov – The Isle of the Dead, Op. 29 (part 1/2)

Part 2/2:…

St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
conducted by Mariss Jansons

3. Caplet’s The Masque of the Red Death

The harp isn’t usually associated with fear and death, most often relegated to music of a “nymphs and shepherds” variety. André Caplet, who composed many of the loveliest works for harp in the repertoire, took the instrument out of its comfort zone with some incredibly ethereal, chilling music based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Mask of the Red Death.

In the original tale, a prince holds a lavish masked ball, where he confronts a mysterious figure wearing a ghoulish mask and bloodstained robe. When the prince falls dead, his other guests forcibly remove the mask to reveal no solid form underneath: it is the spirit of the “Red Death” plague come to claim them all.

On Youtube…

Allegri String Quartet, Vanessa McKeand – harp
For information and analysis of this work visit…

4. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor

Bach’s towering monument of organ music, with its deep sense of foreboding, will forever be associated with imagery of spooky old castles and a phantom’s lair…

On Youtube…

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

I don’t know who performed this, but it’s by far the best recording I’ve ever heard!! Enjoy!!

5. Berlioz’s March to the Scaffold from Symphonie Fantastique IV


A drugged artist witnesses his own death in a vivid dream, in which he has killed his beloved and faces execution for the crime.

He watches as an onlooker outside of himself as the guillotine blade falls (a single G-minor chord) and his own head bounces down the steps and into the waiting basket (a series of descending pizzicato notes).

In this classic version, Leonard Bernstein conducts the Orchestre National de France.

On Youtube…

Leonard Bernstein conducts the “Orchestre National de France” in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique
4th Movement: Allegretto non troppo (Marche au supplice)

6. Ligeti’s Requiem


György Sándor Ligeti was a Hungarian composer of contemporary classical music. He has been described as “one of the most important avant-garde composers in the latter half of the twentieth century”
Born: May 28, 1923, Târnăveni, Romania
Died: June 12, 2006, Vienna, Austria

As we heard in Bartòk’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, visionary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick had a knack for finding the most haunting classical music to accompany his bold imagery. In 2001: A Space OdysseyGyörgy Ligeti’s Requiem, with its clamouring, massed voices and dissonant microtonal clusters, captures the terrifying vastness and emptiness of the universe.

On Youtube…

2001 Gyorgy Ligeti’s Requiem

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