20 Of The Darkest Pieces Of Classical Music

There is something about dark classical music that seems to speak to the dark side of human nature. Maybe it’s the mysterious, ominous tones that can be so unsettling. Or perhaps it’s the fact that many of the stories and legends behind the pieces are full of death, violence, and despair.

Darker pieces are not always bad; they can be very beautiful and even haunting in some cases. The themes are unsettling in some of them but what’s art that doesn’t push boundaries. Classical music is full of dark pieces that are perfect for listening to when you want to feel a little bit spooked. Here are 20 of the darkest classical pieces ever written:

1. “The Commendatore Scene From Don Giovanni” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

W.A. Mozart - Don Giovanni, K  527; Act 2, Commendatore Scene ("Amadeus" Soundtrack)W.A. Mozart – Don Giovanni, K 527; Act 2, Commendatore Scene (“Amadeus” Soundtrack)

This is one of the most haunting pieces Mozart ever wrote. Don Giovanni is considered by many to be immoral. When he summons the ghost of the Commendatore in Mozart’s opera, things get dark very quickly. In this scene, Don Giovanni comes back from the dead to confront the man who killed him. It is a dark and intense scene with lots of dramatic music.

2. “Dies Irae” by Giuseppe Verdi

Verdi’s Requiem: “Dies irae”Verdi’s Requiem: “Dies irae”

This is one of the most famous and well-known dark pieces of classical music. Dies Irae is a part of the Requiem Mass, written by Verdi to commemorate the death of his friend, Alessandro Manzoni. The piece is full of sinister and ominous tones, and it is said to be one of the most frightening pieces ever written. This piece is a part of many Halloween soundtracks and is usually used in scary movies.

3. “Night On Bald Mountain” by Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky

Mussorgsky - Night on Bald MountainMussorgsky – Night on Bald Mountain

This is one of the most famous dark pieces of classical music ever written. Mussorgsky wrote the piece as part of a collection called “Pictures at an Exhibition”. Night on Bald Mountain depicts a witches’ Sabbath, and it is a very menacing and spooky piece. It is often used in horror movies and Halloween soundtracks.

4. “Isle Of The Dead” by Sergei Rachmaninov

Sergei Rachmaninov - Isle of the DeadSergei Rachmaninov – Isle of the Dead

Isle of the Dead is a very dark piece written by Sergei Rachmaninov between 1901 and 1909, but it wasn’t performed until 1915. The piece is about death and dying, and hence on this list of dark music. This piece is often used as a theme in documentaries on war and disaster because of its dark tone and character. This piece is perfect for listening to when you want to feel spooked in style.

5. “6th Symphony” by Ralph Vaughan Wiliams

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 6Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 6

This piece is an exception on this list because it was not written to be dark and ominous. Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote the 6th Symphony after the death of his wife and child in 1908. However, people have interpreted it as being very dark since its composition. It has even been described as “a requiem for lost innocence.”

6. “String Quartet No. 8 In C Minor, Op. 110” by Dmitri

Emerson String Quartet: Shostakovich Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110Emerson String Quartet: Shostakovich Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110

This is one of the darkest and most depressing string quartets ever written. The String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 110 was written by Dmitri Shostakovich in 1960 and is a very dark and intense piece. It is about the composer’s struggles with Stalinist Russia, and the darkness of the piece comes from his feeling of hopelessness and despair during that time.

7. “Kindertotenlieder” by Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler - KindertotenliederGustav Mahler – Kindertotenlieder

Kindertotenlieder is a set of five songs that Gustav Mahler wrote about the loss of children. The songs were written after his daughter, Maria, died in 1907; however, Mahler wasn’t sure how he could write songs about her death without writing something too dark. The pieces are very emotionally intense and moving, but they also feel very dark because of their subject matter.

8. “String Quartet No. 8” by Dmitri Shostakovich

Shostakovich - String Quartet No. 8 with score - Borodin String QuartetShostakovich – String Quartet No. 8 with score – Borodin String Quartet

This piece is another very dark and depressive string quartet. The piece was written by Dmitri Shostakovich in 1964, just two years before he died. It’s based on a protest song that originated during the Russian Revolution of 1905. Shostakovich wrote the piece to express his ideas about social injustice and inequality.

9. “Black Mass Sonata: Piano Sonata No. 9, Op. 68 (1912-13)” by Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin

Scriabin: Piano Sonata No. 9, Op. 68 "Black Mass"Scriabin: Piano Sonata No. 9, Op. 68 “Black Mass”

This sonata is one of the darkest pieces of classical music ever written. Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin wrote it in 1912-13. This piece is a piano sonata based on the idea of a black mass and is full of dark and ominous sounding chords.

10. “Totentanz” by Franz Liszt-

Franz Liszt - Totentanz (1849)Franz Liszt – Totentanz (1849)

This piece of music is not only dark, but it’s also very creepy! Franz Liszt composed “Totentanz” in 1839. The title may sound light and cheery, but the piece isn’t anything like that. “Totentanz” is a dark and somber work based on the idea of the Dance of Death.

11. “Mozart – Requiem” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart : Requiem (Orchestre national de France / James Gaffigan)Mozart : Requiem (Orchestre national de France / James Gaffigan)

Composed in 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem is one of the most well-known pieces of classical music ever written. It is a symphony that lasts over 40 minutes, and it’s full of dark and depressing sounding chords.

12. “Death And The Maiden Quartet” by Franz Schubert

This quartet is one of the darkest pieces of classical music that Franz Schubert ever wrote. Franz wrote The Death and the Maiden quartet in 1824 based on a poem by Friedrich Schiller.

13. “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” by Krzysztof Eugeniusz Penderecki

Penderecki: Threnody for the Victims of HiroshimaPenderecki: Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima

This piece is dark and depressing, but it’s also very different from most other pieces of classical music because Krzysztof Eugeniusz Penderecki created the piece by basing it directly on field recordings that he made of the victims of Hiroshima.

14. “Vers La Flamme” by Alexander Scriabin

Scriabin Vers la flamme, Op.72 (Horowitz)Scriabin Vers la flamme, Op.72 (Horowitz)

Alexander Scriabin wrote “Vers La Flamme” in 1911, and it is a very dark and intense piano piece. The piece’s title means “towards the flame” and it’s based on the idea of reaching for enlightenment through pain and suffering.

15. “Trio élégiaque No. 2 In D Minor, Op. 9” by Sergei Rachmaninov

Rachmaninov - Trio élégiaque no. 2, op. 9 (Audio+Sheet) [Kogan/Luzanov/Svetlanov]Rachmaninov – Trio élégiaque no. 2, op. 9 (Audio+Sheet) [Kogan/Luzanov/Svetlanov]

This work is one of the most depressing pieces of classical music. Sergei Rachmaninov composed “Trio élégiaque No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 9” in 1891, and the piece is about thoughts of death and dying.

16. “Symphony No. 4 In A Minor Op 63” by Jean Sibelius

Sibelius - Symphony No 4 in A minor, Op 63 - SalonenSibelius – Symphony No 4 in A minor, Op 63 – Salonen

Jean Sibelius composed his Symphony No. 4 in A minor Op 63 in 1911, and the piece is one of the darkest symphonies that he ever wrote. He wrote it to express his feelings about the Finnish Civil War. The symphony is full of dark and brooding chords.

17. “Stockhausen Klavierstuck IX” by Karlheinz Stockhausen

Stockhausen: Klavierstück IX ∙ Pierre-Laurent AimardStockhausen: Klavierstück IX ∙ Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Karlheinz Stockhausen composed this dark piano piece in 1956, and it’s one of the most dissonant pieces of classical music ever written. The composer wrote it to express his feelings about the nuclear war. The piece is full of dark and dissonant chords.

18. “Lady Macbeth Of Mtsensk” by Dmitri Shostakovich

Shostakovich - Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk - Jansons (Part 1)Shostakovich – Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk – Jansons (Part 1)

This is one of the darkest and depressing ballets ever written. Dmitri Shostakovich wrote this ballet in 1934, and it tells the story of an unhappy marriage between a woman with loose morals named Lady Macbeth and her greedy merchant husband, who begins an affair with another woman.

19. “Divertimento” by Béla Viktor János Bartók

Béla Viktor János BartókBéla Viktor János Bartók

Béla Viktor János Bartók composed this dark and intense string quartet in 1926. The title of the piece means “diversion.” Divertimento is based on the idea that the composer wanted to write a happy and carefree piece of music in response to all of the death and destruction in the world at the time.

20. “Symphony No. 5” by Dmitri Shostakovich

Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 in D Minor op. 47Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 in D Minor op. 47

Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his Symphony No. 5 in 1942, and it’s one of the darkest and most depressing symphonies that is replete with dark and brooding chords.

In conclusion, classical music can be just as dark and depressing as any other genre of music. These 20 pieces are some of the darkest examples of classical music that you’ll ever hear, so be sure to give them a listen.