Tunes that Terrify

HalloweenListener Beware: This is not classical music selected to lull you into a peaceful slumber or to accompany you and your glass of wine in a night of bubble bath relaxation. This is the soundtrack of nightmares.

We love celebrating excellent music here at REFINERSFIRE, and in anticipation of Halloween, we are counting down our top tunes that terrify. Here are our 10 favorite pieces that will surely keep you wide awake, with the lights on, away from the bubble bath, and perhaps with a skillet or baseball bat in place of that glass of wine (for protection).


10) Ligeti: “The Devil’s Staircase” etude

I am not sure which is more terrifying, clawing through the mouth of Hell, or being the pianist who must convey that scene in this complicated, wonderful work.

Greg Anderson’s performance (Caution: this may knock your socks off, and/or your shoes)

9) Lukas Foss: Baroque Variations, 2nd movement

Baroque Variations? Terrifying? Stick with it. It gets creepy. I promise.

8) Britten: The storm interlude from Peter Grimes

It was a dark and stormy night…Yep, I already have goosebumps.

7) Berlioz: “March to the Scaffold” from the Symphonic Fantastique

Think of this as the original “Heads Will Roll”, but literally. They will.


Dudamel with the Los Angeles

and a neat piano transcription

6) Gyorgy Ligeti: Requiem

This piece is not only frightening but also disturbing. The blending of ghostly, dissonant voices and chilling horns makes my skin crawl every time I hear it.
You may remember that Stanley Kubrick made this piece and its composer world famous by heavily featuring it in Kubrick’s 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

5) Wagner: Flying Dutchman Overture to Act 1

Nothing is more terrifying than a flying Dutchman. I repeat. NOTHING. Have you made a transatlantic flight in coach next to one? (very large people for such a tiny country) But seriously, really big ghostly ships that appear out of no where because its captain made a deal with the devil and the only way to break the curse is to find a wife…(hide yo kids, hide yo wife…)

Solti and the Chicago Symphony

and the complete opera from Bayreuth

We have a tie for fourth place. Any piece that has the word “die” in its title deserves special attention, but we also can’t ignore Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. (Who knew that organ music could be so unnerving?)

4) Verdi: “Dies Irae” from the Requiem

Claudio Vandelli with the New Russia State Orchestra (GREAT!)

Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic

4) Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D minor

Karl Richter’s performance

Hans-Andre Stamm

and this!

Thanks to Disney and Dukas, we can bring a different interpretation to the smart appliances roundtable discussion.

3) Dukas: “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”

Bernstein performance

and the Disney version

2) Penderecki: “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima”

A REFINERSFIRE challenge: I dare you to listen to this. Alone. At night. With the lights off. Go on. Give it a go.

Video presentation that follows the score:

1) Mussorgsky: “Night on Bald Mountain”

Frenetic strings and a creepy gargoyle monster???!!! I’m toast. This piece and its animated Disney counterpart traumatized me as a child.

FANTASTIC performance with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic

and the Disney version

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.