Scary music in Theatres of Terror

Halloween is still several weeks away but already terror is more than a gleam in the eye of some.

Opera By Request are presenting Carl Maria von Weber’s gothic masterpiece Der Freischutz on Friday Sept 18th.  There will be no special effects in the wolfs-glen scene except what Weber wrote into the score.  Der Wilde Heer come riding, led by Samiel himself.

Eric Woolfe is planning a double feature with Eldritch Theatre

  • THE HOUSE AT POE CORNER follows Oct 29- Nov 7.

And all over the continent, kids are thinking about their costumes. What will they wear? Will they be scary?

And I have my own little horror show planned.  I am presenting a course at the Royal Conservatory of Music that’s called “Theatres of Terror”  beginning September 22nd.
Tonight? I practiced the last few movements of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, which contain more than their share of scary moments.  Sure, the piano player may be afraid: afraid of hitting a wrong note! but this composition is not for the faint of heart.  The piece is so powerful you can almost see the witch flying.  

Lots of music was meant to scare you. For example there’s Schubert’s Erlkonig, a song telling a story.    If the shadow puppets and the song aren’t compelling enough for you, here’s a site where you can see the German text with a parallel translation here.

And here are a pair of nightmare pieces that are not long after Schubert’s 1815 song, by Hector Berlioz.  His Symphonie Fantastique (1830) concludes with a pair of nightmarish movements.  They’re awesome in Liszt’s piano transcriptions that helped popularize the piece but originally were composed as orchestral pieces (unlike the Pictures,  where the piano pieces were later orchestrated to great effect by Maurice Ravel).

First there’s the “March to the Scaffold.”  I don’t listen to it too often because I want to preserve its power to move me.  It’s one of my absolute favourite pieces.    The hero of the piece has murdered his girl-friend and is being taken to execution.  Fear builds throughout, until, we hear the drums and then the guillotine, including the plunk of a severed head bouncing on the ground.


And then there’s the Gothic “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath” to conclude the work:

This is just the bare beginning of horror in music, before Weber’s infernal Wolfs Glen Scene in Der Freischutz, before the ghosts come out in the Flying Dutchman.

Do you dare see where it leads? We’ve had a century of film and more…

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3 Responses to Scary music in Theatres of Terror

  1. I have so enjoyed this post.. Loved the Puppet show and music.. I have been enjoying the Proms too on UK TV this last month.. 🙂 Many thanks for sharing .. Sue

    • barczablog says:

      Glad it didn’t scare you too much! i have been watching a lot of spooky films, which means i am a bit overwhelmed by negative karma. It may sound obvious to say but there’s a lot of death and screaming in horror films, especially in contrast to the children’s films i sometimes watch. After seeing Argento’s Phantom of the Opera last night (with a fabulous score by Ennio Morricone, but also a lot of gore) i’m ready for the happy mindlessness of the Minions.

      • I have not seen that film the Minions as yet.. But my granddaughter has… I confessed to not knowing what they were.. LOL… Music often sets the mood with me.. It also can affect our very vibration… so wishing you lots of Happy Vibes your way

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