San Francisco Symphony

Murder. Mystery. Mania:
Symphonic Frights Take Flight

Phantoms, ghouls, and fiends creep out of the darkness and into the spotlight at Davies Symphony Hall as Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Symphony conjure two weeks of wonderfully wicked programming just in time for All Hallows’ Eve. Here’s a taste of what’s to come:


Long before Walt Disney used the music in the one and only child-terrifying scene of Fantasia, Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain sent shivers down spines with a gnarly depiction of a witches’ sabbath on St. John’s Eve, an ancient solstice celebration. In Franz Liszt’s Totentanz (Dance of Death)—performed in this program by Bertrand Chamayou—the composer’s lifelong fascination with the macabre manifests in devilish piano variations influenced equally by a 16th-century woodcut by Hans Holbein and a chant melody from the Latin Mass for the Dead. This chant also inspired Liszt’s chum Hector Berlioz, who parodies it in Symphonie fantastique’s chilling March to the Scaffold—just one of many nightmarish scenes in the composer’s semi-autobiographical portrait of an opium trip gone awry. Craving more backstory? Check out the Symphony’s Keeping Score episode on Berlioz, complete with a full performance of the work.


HK Gruber’s Frankenstein!! is not Mary Shelley. This sinister symphonic playland sees Frankenstein as the unseen orchestrator behind a zany mashup of Kurt Weill, Igor Stravinsky, slide whistles, and pop culture nods, all led by a Cabaret-esque emcee, embodied here by baritone Christopher Purves. For a taste of Frankenstein!! with Gruber himself as chansonnier, check out this video from the Berlin Philharmonic. Next, Psycho: A Narrative for String Orchestra proves that even without Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic film, Bernard Herrmann’s ominous score slashes with vivid effect all the way up to the most infamous shower scene in cinema. Listen to Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the LA Philharmonic in excerpts from the classically creepy score HERE, part of a full album of Herrmann's greatest hits. Though some works lose their initial shock factor over time, Béla Bartók’s Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin isn’t one of them. Pulsing with rhythmic dread and psychological terror, this lurid and noirish tale of money, sex, and murder has been chilling audiences for nearly a century.

HALLOWEEN BONUS: Enjoy the comic chaos of three wickedly sassy witches when 1993’s cult classic film Hocus Pocus hits the big screen at Davies Symphony Hall with the score performed LIVE by the Symphony, October 25.

2022–23 SoundBox Shows

SoundBox single tickets are now on sale—grab yours before they sell out.

The stage is set for this season’s unrivaled lineup, headlined by some of music’s most inventive curators:

  • Composer Reena Esmail (Dec 9–10)
  • Pianist/Composer Conrad Tao (Jan 13–14)
  • Collaborative Partner/Violinist Pekka Kuusisto & Composer/Developer Jesper Nordin (Feb 10–11)
  • Collaborative Partner/Composer Nico Muhly & Pianist Yuja Wang (Mar 4)
  • Collaborative Partner/Composer/Pianist Nicholas Britell (Apr 14–15)

Become a SoundBox Producer to receive special perks at shows, starting with early admission—skip the line and grab the best seats in the house. Your VIP experience also includes free drinks and exclusive invitations to intimate roundtable conversations with SoundBox curators and SF Symphony musicians.

A limited number of VIP Passes are available for Nico Muhly and Yuja Wang, offering special opportunities to meet the artists on March 4. Visit the show page for details.

Lead support for SoundBox is provided by
The Barbro and Bernard Osher SoundBox Fund.

Casa Círculo Cultural

The San Francisco Symphony celebrates Casa Círculo Cultural for their work in creating cultural programming reflective of the experiences of the Latino communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. See Casa Círculo Cultural perform with the San Francisco Symphony at the Día de los Muertos Concert on November 5!



Davies Symphony Hall
201 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102

Box Office Hours
Mon–Fri: 10am–6pm, Sat: 12pm–6pm
Sun: 2 hours before concert

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Programs, artists, and prices subject to change.