By now I think it is apparent that I’m much fonder of classical cinema than modern films. One of the main reasons for this are the fully orchestrated scores, particularly within the Horror genre. Sibelius’ Symphony No.4 is one of the most theatrical compositions I’ve heard and fits wonderfully on this list of Halloween albums.
Sibelius: Symphony No.4 A minor Op.63 - Karajan Berlin Philharmonic (1966)
For those who haven’t explored the oftentimes dark world of classical music, I’d recommend this is a starting point. All versions are great but my personal favorite is this one performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. It is purchasable from a few different online shops but also available to hear in it’s entirety on YouTube, for those not quite sure about committing. As always I’m an advocate of supporting artists but sometimes it is convenient to sample something before committing to a purchase. Especially considering the prices some of the music on this list commands for a physical release.
There are many different versions of this piece but the one I’m writing about is the 1966 release conducted by Herbert Von Karajan. I’ll leave a link at the end of this post to the Discogs page.
There is something about the first movement of this particular version that reminds me of the Ray Harryhausen effects in those mythological monster films like Clash Of The Titans and Jason And The Argonauts. For one reason or another those movies are as synonymous with Halloween as any of the early Universal or Hammer Horror pictures. They are violent, a bit scary and contain more monsters than any typical film in the Horror genre but they are also a little dark and a whole lot of fun.
The entire piece opens with hearty swathes of dark strings and an almost guttural moaning of brasses. This would be the soundtrack for a Merry Melodies cartoon if Daffy finally got his just desserts at the hands of Death rather than the playful Elmer Fudd. There are moments of levity but most of them are diffused, it is nearly impossible to not envision some sort of live-action drama playing out on a stage as the opposing sounds struggle to find a balance.
The second movement begins beautifully as well before dropping into a pit of perfectly performed despair, leaving nothing but the jazzy flutes to regain some levity as they open the third, my favorite act. What’s expected is a bit of playfulness but what follows is anything but as this is the turning point of the entire piece where everything starts to sound a little colder and disparate to the more innocent segments of the introduction. The remainder of this form of narrative never seem to regain the levity or optimism presented at the beginning, instead opting for a tragic conclusion.
Every moment of hope is extinguished quite quickly with strokes of uncertainty. At times it sounds as if happiness is choking on the overwhelming darkness that permeates before inevitably throwing in the towel due to the futility of the fight. The listener can sense it looming from the beginning and it just feels like a matter of time before there is nothing left but to let it swallow you whole. This constant theme builds through reprises intended to remind the listener that all is not well.
Without intentionally trying to sound too hyperbolic, this piece of music simply moves me in a way that none other ever has. It is beautiful, bold and tranquil all at once and it is impossible for me to passively have it playing in the background as it demands full attention. For those lucky enough to live in a part of the world where the warmth of Summer eventually becomes dispelled by the frost of Winter, this composition should compliment and aid in the inevitable change of seasons. There is no fighting the cold, frigid dark so why not just concede and let it take over entirely without a struggle.