Classical and classical-crossover Halloween music

Daniella Bova at the CLFA posted a compilation of scary classic rock songs suitable for Halloween.

At her suggestion, here are some of my classical and classical-crossover picks.

Hector Berlioz, “March to the Scaffold” from his Fantastic Symphony. It describes the nightmare of a man who dreams of his own execution.

Franz Liszt, “Les Funérailles” (the funeral). It was written on the occasion of Chopin’s death, hence the nod to the middle section of Chopin’s “Heroic Polonaise” about 2/3 of the way through.

Sergey Prokofiev, “Diabolic suggestion”, one of his youth works and the first to become well known.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer recorded, under the title “The Barbarian”, a rock arrangement of Bela Bartok’s “Allegro Barbaro”. The middle piano section follows the original quite closely: the Hammond and distorted bass guitar theme bookending is was derived from the thematic material. As I wrote and explained earlier, this is to me a rare example of a rock arrangement being more powerful than the classical original.

“Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath is of course not a classical piece, but (by Geezer Butler’s own admission in an interview) the first riff was inspired by the melody of “Mars” from Gustav Holst’s “The Planets”. The song (and band) are named after a horror movie starring Boris Karloff that was playing in the movie theater across the street. The gang (then an indifferent blues band) decided that if people pay good money for scary movies, then they’ll pay for scary music. The next gig they played this at, the audience went bonkers and asked for two repeats: then they know they were  onto something.

And here is a piece that isn’t just creepy but truly scary: Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, written at the height of the Great Purge, the composer never knowing when the knock on the door would come.

BONUS: probably my favorite horror/thriller soundtrack: “Sorcerer” by electronica pioneers Tangerine Dream. This was the soundtrack for William Friedkin’s remake of “Wages of Fear”. Unusually, the movie was shot and edited to the soundtrack rather than the other way around.

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