11 Best Pieces to Play on the Violin for Halloween
Grab your pumpkin spice latte and practice some tricks and treats on your violin with these 11 pieces to play in the violin for Halloween
Depending on where you live, the weather is cooling, the leaves are changing, and everything smells like pumpkins. Many people are also excitedly preparing for October 31st.
Instead of playing tricks on your neighbors this Halloween, why not start a more productive habit and learn some new violin repertoire? 😉
It may surprise you that many pieces of classical music are either about Halloween legends or have been used as such in popular culture and advertisements. Almost none of these pieces are original violin pieces (most are orchestral) but they do have violin arrangements. My favorite arrangements are in the Tomplay app. Get a free trial and 30% off with the discount code VIOLINLOUNGE30 right here. They even have Halloween bundles with easy or intermediate violin pieces.
So go have some fun this Halloween, but don’t forget to practice!
Addams Family theme
Before we dive into some spooky classical music, I’d like to start with this fun violin solo arrangement of the Addams Family theme. I needed quite some practice on the finger snapping though.
“In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Peer Gynt by E. Grieg
This famous movement has been used in countless cartoons and advertisements with a Halloween theme. It is part of Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite, original music he composed for the opening of the now-famous Norweigan play by Henrik Ibsen. This short movement comes relatively early in the plot when Peer visits the palace of the troll king. Based on Norweigan fairy tales, the play profoundly explores the consequences of avoidance, procrastination, and selfish living. Through describing the aimless wanderings of Peer Gynt, Ibsen seeks to show what constitutes a meaningful life and what truly makes us human.
“Lacrimosa” and “Dies Irae” from Requiem in D Minor by W.A. Mozart
“Full of tears will be that day when from the ashes shall arise the guilty man to be judged; therefore spare him O God, merciful Lord Jesus, grant them eternal rest. Amen.”
Mozart’s ground-breakingly beautiful Requiem was, fittingly, the last piece of his life. Actually, he never even got the chance to finish it before his sudden death in 1791. The following year, another Austrian composer named Franz Xaver Süssmayr completed the closing movements. The somber Requiem is a fitting crown to Mozart’s life of genius, and a stark contrast to many of his most famous, more cheerful works.
Dies Irae expresses the same sentiments, but in a completely different mood. With dramatic tremolo in the strings, the chorus enters at full voice announcing the day of wrath. This movement presses the urgency of repentance and the sorrows that await those who refuse. It is very similar to the closing scene of Don Giovanni. Mozart’s Dies Irae setting is a famous theme that has been used throughout popular culture.
“Aquarium” from The Carnival of the Animals by C. Saint-Saëns
When Saint-Saëns wrote Carnival of the Animals, he intended it as a musical joke and didn’t want it published because he feared it would damage his reputation as a serious composer. However, the public hailed it as one of his finest works. The most famous movement is The Swan, which is not a very logical choice for Halloween. Although Aquarium is just about, well, fish, the sweeping legato strings and delicate piano chromaticisms create a spooky sound.
Elfantanz by E. Jenkinson
Ezra Jenkinson (1872-1947) was an English composer and violinist, and probably the least-known composer on this list. Contrary to the dramatic life tales of Bach, Mozart, and Brahms, Jenkinson chose to live alone and avoid the public for most of life. His best-known work is the little showpiece Elfentanz. It is quite manageable for intermediate players, never leaving first position, and is a wonderful way to learn spiccatto. Think of it as a more advanced version of Suzuki’s Perpetual Motion.
Theme from “Witches’ Dance” by N. Paganini
A Suzuki-method favorite, this piece is in every Halloween Suzuki concert I’ve ever heard. Young students enjoy being able to play something by Paganini. The Suzuki excerpt is only one page, but the whole piece runs about eight minutes and includes many advanced techniques. Learning just the theme first is good way to get your foot in the door, and incorporates important techniques such as string crossings, arpeggios, stopped bows, and staccato eighth notes. If you want to get creative, you can do a fun performance by choreographing a little dance to go with the piece.
“Funeral March” from Symphony No. 3, “Allegro con Brio” from Symphony No. 5, and “Allegretto” from Symphony No. 7 by L. Beethoven
Three of Beethoven’s most famous symphonic movements, each from a different piece, make excellent Halloween repertoire even though they all have different moods and purposes. First off is Funeral March, the second movement of his third symphony. This symphony marked the beginning of Beethoven’s middle period and is one of, if not the first, Romantic symphony. It is nicknamed the “Eroica” symphony. Beethoven’s secretary, Ferdinand Ries, gave a fascinating anecdote about the piece’s development. Beethoven had a high regard for Napoleon at the time when Napoleon was First Consul of France. As the symphony lay in progress on Beethoven’s desk, Ries saw “Bonaparte” written across the top. Later, Napoleon declared himself Emperor, and Ries was the first to tell his employer the news. Beethoven apparently became so angry that he stormed over to the desk and tore off the top of the page. The symphony’s published title is “Heroic Symphony, Composed to celebrate the memory of a great man.”
This next movement needs no introduction. Well, maybe it does for people who have never listened past the first eight bars. The whole piece is truly remarkable and deserves a complete listen. Listen to how Beethoven bounces the ominous motif around the orchestra, building it into the buoyant and victorious theme. If you really want a treat, check out the hysterical PDQ Bach version that turns a symphonic concert into a sportscast.
Beethoven’s seventh symphony is as light and joyful as the third and fifth are intense. It marks a transition period between Symphony Pastorale and the groundbreaking Symphony No. 9. The ethereal second movement contains one of the most beautiful moments in classical repertoire. The movement begins with just the cellos playing as soft as possible. The violas enter, then the violins, building to a powerful climax of longing. This new theme fades just after it begins, giving way to soft reminiscences of happy days.
Are you thinking: great, Zlata, but I don’t really have a symphony orchestra ready in my practice room. My favorite violin solo arrangements for these movements are in the Tomplay app. Get a free trial and 30% off with the discount code VIOLINLOUNGE30 right here.
Danse Macabre by C. Saint-Saëns
This piece is actually intended for Halloween and based on an old French tale. The harp opens alone playing a single note twelve times—the twelve strokes of midnight. The solo violin enters, representing Death playing his fiddle. He calls the souls out of their graves to dance for him, until the rooster crows and they must go back until next year.
This piece has an interesting twist: the solo violinist must tune his E string down to an E-flat. When played together with the open A, this creates a tritone, known as “the devil’s interval” because of its anxious, unresolved sound. Tritones were absolutely unacceptable in Renaissance and Baroque music, but Saint-Saëns uses it cleverly as a representative element in his piece.
Gnossienne No. 1 by E. Satie
Erik Satie actually invented a word to title this composition. Gnossienne is derived from the Greek root for knowledge. Satie was an eccentric man who joined and/or created a number of philosophical and spiritual groups in his life, so many of his compositions reflect these interests. Satie wrote seven gnossiennes, many in free time with no time signatures. Gnossienne No. 1 does have a time signature but is a free-flowing, meditative movement.
“Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from the Nutcracker by P. Tchaikovsky
The Nutcracker for Halloween you ask? If you can ignore the original context, the string pizzicatto and celeste Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy create a mysterious tone quality similar to Aquarium. Or I don’t know, maybe it’s just for those people who put Christmas lights up the day after Halloween. In any case, this little vignette does sound more like a walk in the dark by yourself than a dance by a candy-bringing lovable fairy. But maybe that’s just my personal opinion.
Hi! I'm Zlata
Classical violinist helping you overcome technical struggles and play with feeling by improving your bow technique.
Holy, Holy, Holy
To close our list of music for Halloween, here’s a beautiful hymn that’s perfect for violin. October 31st is the eve of All Saints Day, when Roman Catholics celebrate all those now in heaven.