Variations on a Rococo Theme Opus 33 Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky
Why does some classical music scare us? Is it loud noises, creepy sounds, or the terrifying stories music can tell? Find out which composers and pieces make us quiver with fear...
Grieg's masterpiece of tension-building was supposed to evoke a cave full of trolls, gnomes and goblins. Grieg himself wasn't a huge fan, though: "For the Hall of the Mountain King I have written something that so reeks of cowpats, ultra-Norwegianism, and 'to-thyself-be-enough-ness' that I can't bear to hear it, though I hope that the irony will make itself felt."
As the title suggests, this dark little dance has everything required to give the listener the willies. The piece tells the story of Death (a violinist, naturally) making the dead rise from their graves on Halloween and dance to his sinister tune.
It doesn't seem logical that just two notes could cause such a sense of foreboding, but John Williams managed it. His soundtrack to Spielberg's Jaws has been keeping people out of the sea since 1975.
Beginning life as a tone poem called St. John's Night on the bare Mountain, Mussorgsky's most famous work was made more famous by its revision from Rimsky-Korsakov, and then its inclusion in the soundtrack from Disney's Fantasia. Whatever incarnation it is, it's a frightening masterpiece.
This one is perhaps more spooky and supernatural than outright scary, but nevertheless, Maurice Jarre's score for 'Ghost' is still worth a listen.
Berlioz uses a range or orchestral effects to create the scene of a gathering of witches - violins using the backs of their bows to create bubbling cauldron sounds, the sound of a funeral bell and outbursts of musical laughter.
So, you stop at a motel, fancy a shower and the next thing you know a madman in a wig is trying to attack you. What do you think that might sound like? Well, Bernard Herrmann knows, and he shows us in the soundtrack to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.
This is one of the biggies when it comes to scary music. It's been used in classic horror films like The Black Cat and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and even in Dr. Who.
The Twilight Zone now seems like an old-fashioned spook-fest, but when it came to scoring the 1982 film version of the popular TV show, Jerry Goldmsith stepped in to make it as scary as he could.
When it comes to pure fury, few can rival Carl Orff. The stately opening of O Fortuna from Carmina Burana (scene pictured left) is soon replaced by some intense, pulsing choral work, which basically erupts into a full-on orchestral blaze.
Another classic thanks to the influence of a certain Walt Disney, Dukas' impish theme will forever be associated with images of Mickey Mouse attempting to chop up an army of possessed mops.
What better setting for some seriously scary music than the Dies Irae, or 'Day of Wrath?' Verdi's Requiem is an epic achievement in every sense, but this depiction of the day of judgement is pretty unsettling stuff. Turn it up loud.
It's probably safe to say that being dragged into the depths of hell is a potentially scary situation. But few could make it sound as terrifying as Mozart manages to in Don Giovanni. Listen to the booming bass of the Commendatore as he announces his arrival. Yikes!
There are two moments in Mahler's Symphony No. 2 (subtitled The Resurrection) where the composer attempted to capture the terror and pain of death in one musical gesture, what has become known as the 'Death Shriek'. You can judge for yourself whether it works or not, but we advise you to sit down while you listen…
This battle-cry is actually quite a triumphant event in the original staging of Wagner's Ring Cycle, but thanks to the piece being used to soundtrack helicopters flying through war-torn Vietnam in Francis For Coppola's Apocalypse Now, it's safe to say that this is officially a scary piece.