Monday, November 27, 2017

November 27, 1896: Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra premiered

Last updated August 31, 2018.

Also Sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zoroaster), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 30 (TrV 176)

Richard Strauss (composer)

Composed: 1896

First Performance: November 27, 1896

Sales: --

Peak: --

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Genre: classical > orchestra


  1. Einleitung (Introduction)
  2. Von den Hinterweltlern (Of the Backworldsmen)
  3. Von der großen Sehnsucht (Of the Great Longing)
  4. Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften (Of Joys and Passions)
  5. Das Grablied (The Song of the Grave)
  6. Von der Wissenschaft (Of Science and Learning)
  7. Der Genesende (The Convalescent)
  8. Das Tanzlied (The Dance-Song)
  9. Nachtwandlerlied (Song of the Night Wanderer)

Average Duration: 33:30


Strauss, like many of his contemporaries, was enthralled with Richard Wagner. Many of his works exhibit “an intent on Strauss’ part to re-create the spirit of the older composer’s works.” AMG However, in adapting Friedrich Nietzsche’s tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra to music, “Strauss’ music soon took on a distinct identity.” AMG A former Wagner devotee, Nietzsche had become his most vocal critic. By aligning with Nietzsche, “Strauss forever removed himself from the camp of ‘true’ Wagnerians.” AMG

“Like most of Strauss’ tone poems, Also sprach Zarathustra employs massive instrumental forces; however, it provides a contrast to Strauss’ more strongly narrative works in its deployment of the orchestra in a more subtle and deft manner. The relative concision of its musical material suggests the composer’s attempt to mirror the nature and character of his literary source.” AMG He completed it “in the summer of 1896 and premiered in November of the same year…Iit was among the works that forever solidified the composer’s reputation and distilled the essence of his singular orchestral language.” AMG

Opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey

The first of nine sections kicks off with an introduction which has been immortalized in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Three distinctive episodes follow, each exploring an element of Nietzsche’s text, “from Von den Hinterweltlern (From the Back-world People) to an expression of intense yearning (Von der großen Sehnsucht) and a portrayal of joy and passion (Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften). At the center of the work is Das Grablied (Song of the Grave), which sets the stage for the clever and ironic Von der Wissenschaft, in which a truncated fugue gently pokes fun at science by – perhaps prophetically – including all twelve chromatic pitches in its subject. Der Genesende (The Convalescent) slowly regains its strength, bursting forth into the energetic Das Tanzlied (Dance-Song), led by a solo fiddle.” AMG

“The final section, Nachtwandlerlied (Song of the Night Wanderer), makes subtle use of tonal and thematic cues (most notably, a return to the tonality of the opening section) to suggest that the journey of the unnamed Night Wanderer is cyclic – eternally returning to its beginning.” AMG

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