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13 horrifying classical album covers for Halloween

Clowns. Why does it always have to be clowns? (From a 1950s LP.) Mercury via Discogs

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Take a tour with us through the classical record bins of yore for 13 album covers delightfully suited for Halloween. They range from truly frightening to "what were they thinking?" See for yourself which are tricks and which are treats in the gallery below.

This article includes contributions by Classical MPR staff members Ryan Lohr, music director, and Vaughn Ormseth, manager of community impact.

German poet Heinrich Heine got it exactly right when he said, "When words leave off, music begins." There are no words to describe this bizarre cover -- note the little dog -- for an otherwise fine recording by former Minnesota Orchestra conductor Edo de Waart. RCA via Discogs
"Game of Thrones"? No, it's just the severed head of John the Baptist. Seventeenth-century Italian composer Alessandro Stradella was stabbed to death when he was 42, so this gory cover for his homage to the biblical figure seems especially fitting. Hyperion
It's not clear whether this snaggle-toothed clown is aimed at evoking the "Jubilee" or "Hobgoblin" movements of Chadwick's "Symphonic Sketches." Whichever, it -- or maybe that should be "It," for Stephen King fans -- is downright creepy. Mercury via Discogs
There are many choices when it comes to Saint-Saens' "Danse Macabre" and Mussorgsky's "A Night on Bald Mountain." This one offers both good (a perfectly ghoulish skeleton) and bad (a caricaturish witch). Break a leg, Mr. Bones. Capitol via Discogs
"Totentanz," Liszt's "Dance of Death" for piano and orchestra, certainly has a lot going for it. Just don't ask the RCA art department what that might be. Watch out for the flying piano! And Bat Girl. And fireballs. RCA via Discogs
Michael Nagle's sad, eerie painting deftly captures the spirit of Scottish composer James MacMillan's emotional tribute to the thousands of women executed for supposedly being witches in post-Reformation Scotland. Brilliant! (Bonus points for the involvement of Minnesota Orchestra conductor Osmo Vanska.) BIS
Clowns again. And just for laughs, let's throw in a hunchback. That is, after all, the subject of Verdi's acclaimed opera. But this unsettling cover still induces shivers. Look out! He's right behind you. Decca via Discogs
If cult film director John Waters were to design a classical album cover, it might look something like this. Was this really the best image that came out of the photo session with Swedish soprano superstar Birgit Nilsson? Decca via Discogs
Is Janacek's opera about a fox or a cat? The cute costume and makeup convey one image, while the vixen's pose seems to indicate another. But surely these are just tiny details for an art department. EMI
Hector Berlioz's seminal "Symphonie Fantastique" has been hailed for its hallucinatory nature, which explains the concept for this trippy artwork. Melodiya/Westminster via Discogs
If you're driving at night and see this figure by the road, speed up -- or wake up. Yes, this is technically a jazz recording. But much of quasi-classical label ECM's output spans genres, so we're including it here just to haunt your nightmares. ECM
Giuseppe Tartini's Violin Sonata, known widely as the "Devil's Trill," came to him in a dream in which Satan played a wicked fiddle. It went on to inspire other musical pieces and artwork, including this low-fi rendition. Westminster via Discogs
"Double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn and instruments bubble." Or something like that. This goofy cover seems apropos for a 1950s collection of "scary" classics, but the half-in/half-out trombone looks like it wants no part of it. RCA via Discogs

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