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Dark Classical Music

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Initial post: Jul 21, 2009, 11:05:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 21, 2009, 11:08:15 PM PDT
So I'm not very experienced when it comes to listening to classical music (although I have been a musician for about ten years and have played a lot of classical music, as well as blues, jazz, rock, and metal). What I'd really like to find is some dark, mysterious, haunting classical music (hopefully that hasn't been played to death in modern culture), and if any of the experts around here could help point me in the right direction, I'd really appreciate it. It doesn't matter TOO much what time period it's from, although I am interested in the older classical music from centuries past. Anybody have recommendations?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 21, 2009, 11:15:56 PM PDT
Fear not. Dark is the new light. Just like gray is the new black, etc...

Frankenstein dark: Vierne - organ sonatas: Vierne: Organ Symphonies Complete
Serial killer dark: Gloria Coates - string quartets: Gloria Coates: String Quartets Nos. 1, 5, 6, Gloria Coates: String Quartets Nos. 2, 3, 4, 7 & 8

Posted on Jul 21, 2009, 11:39:04 PM PDT
alaskan glam-metal-head,

You've come to the right place. We can help. Teh good news is that not much of any classical music is played to death anymore in the popular culture, especially the deep dark symphonies and concertos from the 19th and 20th centuries.

A great place to start is with the Beethoven symphonies. The 3d symphony in particular has long been considered the unofficial start of the Romantic era. The 5th is one that has been played to death, but mostly the ominous beginning. It would be worthwhile to listen to the whole work as an epic struggle, where the hero is vindicated in the end. Another great mysterious and dark piece is the Symphonie Phantastique by Berlioz. He was chasing after a woman who would later become his wife, and doing some serious opium when he wrote the piece. Sound familiar? It is mind-boggling to think that this piece was written in the '30s--the 1830s! Mendelssohn's 3d "Scottish" Symphony evokes the dark, stormy weather that perpetually shrouds Scotland. Franz Liszt wrote a dark musical tale in his Faust Symphony. Make sure to check out Wagner also. Recommend orchestral highlights of the Ring cycle, Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal, unless you want to watch the whole operas on DVD. The operas make much more sens to me when I see them, especially with subtitles.

This brings us to some real princes of Darkness--Brahms and Mahler. The concertos and symphonies of Brahms are mostly dark and melancholy, but not bitter, like a good rich dark chocolate. If you aren't familiar with Mahler yet, you are in for an experience. The music is really indescribable. Nine symphonies and numerous song cycles are filled with some of the most beautiful, bombastic, tender, profound, banal, simple, and complicated music you may ever hear. Hint--Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck are fans.

The 20th century holds many tales of darkness, including the mysterious music of Scriabin and Szymanowski. Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy is a surrealistic work fo great intensity. Shostakovich is another prince of darkness, heavily influenced by Mahler. No death metal I've ever heard can match Shostakovich's 4th Symphony for sheer metalic brutality and desperation. More modern works by Allan Pettersson, Hans Werner Henze, and Alfred Schnittke, among others have very foreboding senses of darkness and despair.

Hope this is a start. You'll undoubtedly get many more suggestions in this forum than you could ever listen to. I think we like writing and talking about this music almost as much as playing and listening to it. Welcome.

Posted on Jul 22, 2009, 12:35:10 AM PDT
Regarding Beethoven:
The 3rd symphony isn't really dark as a whole to me, I think the melodies dominate; one of the four movements is however, in fact a funeral march.

The 5th is darker somewhat, in that it is believed that Fate is banging down your door, musically. With Beethoven, you will typically get at least double double your mania for your melancholy.

His 9th symphony is your best bet, even though the last movement is a choral piece entitled "Ode to Joy". The first movement is dark and powerful. The second movement is a fit of violence. And the third is downright depressing, with two brief spasms of half-hearted energy. I recommend a disc on DeutcheGrammophone conducted by Leonard Bernstein, erroneously named "Ode to Freedom" because the performance commemorated the fall of the Berlin wall.

I would also recommend Beethoven's 'Appassionata' Piano Sonata if you like fits or rage interspersed with your melancholy. Hearing Vladamir Horowitz on the paino is like,"Oh, that's what the composer was trying to say."

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2009, 12:43:03 AM PDT
Thank you so much for the help! You mentioned Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck being fans of a couple composers, and a symphony more brutal than death metal! I like the sound of that, hehe! I guess you must have realized that I'm somewhat of a metalhead! I've always heard and liked the influence of classical music in some of the rock and metal I listen to, and I decided I'd like to try to seek out some good classical music as a result.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2009, 12:43:21 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 22, 2009, 1:38:45 AM PDT
Ahmad says:
Ancient Echoes (warning: amazon put the wrong music sample to this album).

Bach: Bach: 6 Suiten für Violoncello solo
(again, amazon put a wrong music sample to this album SHAME ON YOU AMAZON).

Mozart: Mozart: Requiem / McNair, Watkinson, Araiza, Lloyd; Marriner

Mendelssohn: Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night's Dream (complete) / Ozawa, Boston Symphony Orchestra

Sibelius: Sibelius: Finlandia/Tone Poems.

Scriabin: Scriabin: Poeme De L'extase / Piano Concerto / Promethee

Debussy: Debussy: La Mer / Nocturnes / Jeux / Rhapsodie pour clarinette et orchestre - The Cleveland Orchestra / Pierre Boulez

Richard Strauss: Strauss: Four Last Songs / Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Penderecki: Penderecki: Anaklasis; Threnody; etc.

Morton Feldman: Morton Feldman: Rothko Chapel; Why Patterns?

Arvo Part: Tabula Rasa

Posted on Jul 22, 2009, 2:43:32 AM PDT
MacDoom says:
Rachmaninov Isle of the Dead.
Mussorgsky Night on the Bald Mountain.
Schubert String Quintet
Sibelius Tapiola
Brahms Clarinet Quintet

Don't do them all in a row if you don't want to become suicidal. You have been warned...

Posted on Jul 22, 2009, 5:17:58 AM PDT
Yi-Peng says:
Could you possibly consider the Schubert Winterreise? It's a very bleak song cycle about a rejected lover who forsakes the world for the desolation of winter. I think you'll really like either the Matthias Goerne or Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau versions of the piece, as they have that weighty, dark-hued timbre that serves the work well.

Posted on Jul 22, 2009, 7:07:11 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Jul 29, 2012, 2:56:45 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2009, 7:16:05 AM PDT
club 7 says:
try mahler symphony no:9 for an intense life changing experience.
it's a piece delving intothe depths of life,death, and the final acceptance leading to eternal peace.
in between the piece lies a 2nd movement of off the wall merriment and a 3rd movement (rondo burlesque) drenched in pandemonium, hysteria, and rage.
try leonard bernsteins new york philharmonic version on the sony label.
it's truly a earth shattering experience then try herbert von karajan's version with the berlin phiharmonic live for an adagio (final movement) of the utmost concentration and never ceasing intensity.
this symphony will blow you away.

Posted on Jul 22, 2009, 7:38:49 AM PDT
R. Hammel says:
Naturally, the topic turns one's thoughts towards "night music," which is to say "nocturnes" -- of which John Field, Chopin, Schumann ("Nachtmusik"), Faure and Scriabin, inter alia, have written examples. In general, they are perhaps somber but not really dark.

For the most famous "nightmusic" that isn't dark at all, try Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

Remember The Merchant of Venice: "soft stillness and the night become the touches of sweet harmony" (set by Vaughan Williams under the title "Serenade to Music")

Posted on Jul 22, 2009, 11:02:36 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 22, 2009, 11:06:25 AM PDT
down2erth says:
I'm listening right now to a rather dark work, Symphonic Poem by Vladimir Soltan, but for a REALLY bleak, dark, midnight-black experience, try Allan Pettersson's Symphony No. 7 !!!

Posted on Jul 22, 2009, 11:25:43 AM PDT
Dark, haunting music: Liszt's Piano Sonata in B minor; Tchaikovsky's 6th and Mahler's 9th Symphonies; Bartok's opera, Bluebeard's Castle, and his Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta; Shostakovich, Preludes and Fugues, Violin Concerto, Symphonies (such as 10), and SQs (such as 8). More recent, maybe the Rautaavara cd on Ondine with the Violin Concerto, Isle of Bliss, and Angels and Visitations.

Posted on Jul 22, 2009, 12:03:01 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 23, 2009, 1:49:51 AM PDT
Erik Stijnen says:
I find some works of Penderecki very dark. Take for example 'De Natura Sonoris No. 2' and 'The Awakening Of Jacob'. Seriously.
For a more tonal experience, try Pettersson's symphony 5, 6 and 7.
Sibelius's Tapiola is also quite dark.
A lot of Shostakovich's music is also quite dark but mostly depressing. Quite Dark are his 13th and 14th symphony.

I don't find any music of Mahler, Beethoven or Brahms really dark. Melancholic and depressing yes, but dark?

Posted on Jul 22, 2009, 12:07:40 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 22, 2009, 12:47:23 PM PDT
My thanks to everyone for so many recommendations! Although I'll probably get even more, hehe. I've already started to explore some of the composers mentioned and am liking some of them. I know I said I'd like to find some dark classical music, but it doesn't HAVE to be totally blackened and depressing. I've just heard so much happy, sprightly classical music, that I was starting to get a little tired of it. I also like really epic-sounding music - the kind that makes you think of adventures and huge landscapes (mountains, etc.) I'm sorry if this sounds too vague or silly, but if anyone has more recommendations that match that description, I'd appreciate that as well, hehe. Or if you want to keep trying to depress and scare me, that's fine too.

Posted on Jul 22, 2009, 12:11:50 PM PDT
Dichterliebe says:
Beethoven Coriolan Overture; Schubert "Unfinished"; Cherubini Medea; Haydn 49th; J.S. Bach St. John Passion, opening chorus "Herr, Unser Herrscher"); C.P.E. Bach Flute Concerto in d-minor (iii); Beethoven "Appassionata"; Haydn op. 50 no. 4; Mozart "Great" Mass, Kyrie; Chopin Nocturne op. 48 no. 1; Scriabin Sonata no. 6; ... Sorry if I'm repeating others' suggestions.

My $0.02.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2009, 12:56:07 PM PDT
Erik Stijnen says:

I don't find any music of Mahler, Beethoven or Brahms really dark. Melancholic and depressing yes, but dark?

LW: interesting. I was thinking of 'dark' as a vague general term. I would say that 'melancholy' and 'depressing' are specific emotional terms. Could you describe what 'dark' means to you more in depth?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2009, 2:18:34 PM PDT
The dark kind of music I'm thinking of is mysterious, ominous, haunting, brooding, chaotic, and war-like (powerful). Hope that helps a little.

Posted on Jul 22, 2009, 2:44:32 PM PDT
Mandryka says:
alaskan glam-metal-head says:
The dark kind of music I'm thinking of is mysterious, ominous, haunting, brooding, chaotic, and war-like (powerful).

The choice is clear.

What you need is the dance called Montagues and Capulets from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2009, 3:00:16 PM PDT
One can't beat Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony for epic sonic scenery. Also Ralph Vaughan Williams 7th Symphony "Sinfonia Antarctica" is so frosty sounding that I start getting shivers when I listen to it. Mahler's 1st Symphony evokes the dawn of a new day in an alpine meadow, although it is as much metaphorical as literal.

Posted on Jul 22, 2009, 3:16:53 PM PDT
Steven Guy says:
Messe de Notre Dame by Guillaume de Machaut (try to get the Ensemble Organum recording on HM for a really dark, "Gothic" experience!)
Missa "et ecce terrae motus" à 12 voce by Antoine Brumel - The famous "Earthquake Mass".
Sonata XX à 22 by Giovanni Gabrieli (listen to the dark recording made by the Taverner Consort & Players on 5 cornetti and 17 sackbuts)
Suscipe, clementissime Deus à 12 voci by Giovanni Gabrieli (for 6 men's voices and 6 trombones)
Timor et tremor à 6 by Giovanni Gabrieli
Misericordia tua Domine à 12 by Giovanni Gabrieli (for 3 solo singers and 9 trombones)
The Lamentations of Jeremiah by Roland de Lassus (the Pro Cantione Antiqua recording is recommended, for it features only men's voices)
Lagrime di San Peitro by Roland de Lassus (some good recordings are available)
Hor che'l ciel (madrigal) by Claudio Monteverdi (very dark and brooding!)
"Nuit" by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (look for this movement in the recording of Charpentier's Te Deum and Messe de minuit "Midnight Mass", by Les Musiciens du Louvre directed by Marc Minkowski)
Requiem in F minor by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (for soloists, choir, strings, trombones, 2 bassoons and 3 organs)
The Mystery Sonatas by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (for violin and basso continuo)

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2009, 4:20:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 22, 2009, 4:21:19 PM PDT
alaskan glam-metal-head :
Love your moniker. And SHFA beat me to Gloria Coates. You want dark ? You should try her symphonies. My kids call it "the scary music" and brought a copy to school at Halloween to play during class. However, I don't know how many classmates had to be treated for depression afterwards...

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2009, 4:24:59 PM PDT
Oh yeah - check out Prokofiev's 3rd symphony - it could easily be the soundtrack to a slasher film.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2009, 5:39:05 PM PDT
Be sure also to check out Prokofiev's 2d Symphony. After the premier Prokofiev admitted that neither he nor anyone else understood the piece. Sheer madness.

Posted on Jul 22, 2009, 7:01:49 PM PDT
Schumann Manfred Overture
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Discussion in:  Classical Music forum
Participants:  39
Total posts:  64
Initial post:  Jul 21, 2009
Latest post:  Dec 28, 2012

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