Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 (1896)

By Bernard Jacobson

Written for the concert Beyond Good and Evil: Nietzshe and Music, performed on March 8, 2000 at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.

The dramatic and literary bases of Strauss’s early tone poems were diverse and more or less innocent. With the 19th-century German metaphysical poet Friedrich Nietzsche, and the prophet-figure he distantly based on the ancient Persian mystic philosopher Zoroaster, the composer took his stand on more problematical ground. The cult of the Übermensch, or superman, propounded in 1885 in Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, came half a century later to look dangerously like the foundation for the concept of the super-race that led to Nazism.

It’s true that Hitler and his henchmen drew ideological sustenance from Nietzsche, from his one-time idol Wagner, and from their more soberly philosophical compatriots. It’s true also that the seed of one element in Nazism can be traced in Nietzsche’s radical rejection of the Christian ethos–of mercy and compassion, and the exaltation of the meek–in favor of a hard-edged, clear-eyed, ecstatically arrogant confrontation of the mysteries of the universe. But the pronouncements of his Zarathustra have something of the willful paradoxicality of the socialist John Tanner in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, who declares he hates the poor so much that he wants to abolish them utterly.

Nietzsche in any case is best approached as a poet, not as a philosopher. Also sprach Zarathustra, which offers mankind “not the Joy of Life (for there is no such thing), but the Fullness of Life, in the joy of the senses, in the triumphant exuberance of vitality,” is a work of the imagination. To blame it for the excesses of those who may later have taken it literally, and corrupted its raptures into a political theory of monumental if terrifying banality, is to make a category mistake not unlike theirs.

With regard to Strauss’s tone poem, “freely based on Friedrich Nietzsche,” the most sensible course for listeners is likewise to take the piece as music, undistracted by considerations of dubious metaphysics. This is essentially a lyric drama, captivating its audience through vivid gesture and trenchant characterization. Strauss himself, when he introduced the work to Berlin shortly after its Frankfurt premiere in November 1896, observed in his program note:

“I did not intend to write philosophical music or to portray in music Nietzsche’s great work. I wished to convey by means of music an idea of the development of the human race from its origin, through the various phases of its development, religious and scientific, up to Nietzsche’s idea of the superman. The whole symphonic poem is intended as a homage to Nietzsche’s genius, which found its greatest expression in his book Thus Spake Zarathustra.”

What this makes interestingly clear is how judicious the late Stanley Kubrick and his musical advisers were in choosing the beginning of Also sprach Zarathustra to accompany the opening (“dawn”) sequence of 2001-A Space Odyssey, for Strauss’s formulation reads almost like a synopsis of the first part of the film.

One further quotation will help to set the scene–the exordium of Nietzsche’s work, with which Strauss headed his printed score (the passage is given here in Thomas Common’s translation):

“When Zarathustra was thirty years old, he left his home and the lake of his home, and went into the mountains. There he enjoyed his spirit and his solitude, and for ten years did not weary of it. But at last his heart changed–and, rising one morning with the rosy dawn, he went before the sun, and spake thus unto it: ‘Thou great star! What would be thy happiness if thou hadst not those for whom thou shinest! For ten years hast thou climbed hither unto my cave: thou wouldst have wearied of thy light and of the journey, had it not been for me, mine eagle and my serpent. But we awaited thee every morning, took from thee thine overflow, and blessed thee for it. Lo! I am weary of my wisdom, like the bee that hath gathered too much honey; I need hands outstretched to take it. I would fain bestow and distribute, until the wise have once more become joyous in their folly, and the poor happy in their riches. Therefore must I descend into the deep: as thou doest in the evenings, when thou goest behind the sea, and givest light also to the nether-world, thou exuberant star! Like thee must I go down, as men say, to whom I descend. Bless me, then, thou tranquil eye, that canst behold the greatest happiness without envy! Bless the cup that is about to overflow, that the water may flow golden out of it, and carry everywhere the reflection of thy bliss! Lo! This cup is again going to empty itself, and Zarathustra is again going to be a man.’”

Thus began Zarathustra’s going down.

Strauss’ own opening is a masterly stroke. The sunrise is depicted through a Nature motif of irreducible simplicity. Proclaimed “solemnly” by four trumpets against the background of a deep, slowly throbbing C in octaves on the organ and the lowest instruments of the orchestra, this motif evokes a sense of infinite space, of a nascent universe waiting to be peopled. The essential neutrality of the theme stems from its indeterminacy of mode: the bare fifth is compatible with either major or minor. And it emerges as the work unfolds that its entire musical design depends on the opposition of two tonal centers: C (major or occasionally minor), which symbolizes Nature or the Universe, and B, which is the key of Humanity.

The sun once risen, Strauss heads the remaining eight sections of his continuous score with chapter titles taken from Nietzsche, proceeding from Of the Backworldsmen through Of the Great Longing, Of Joys and Passions, Grave-Song, Of Science, The Convalescent, and The Dance-Song. During the concluding Night_Wanderer’s Song twelve somber bell_strokes, progressively diminishing in force like the paroxysms of the “catastrophe” in Berg’s Violin Concerto, toll midnight. (In Nietzsche’s passage, the chimes alternate with the famous lines beginning “O Mensch! Gib acht!”-“O Man! Take heed!”-that Mahler set in his Third Symphony.) Zarathustra’s dithyramb is over, and the music recedes into silence, its famous polytonal close leaving the opposition of C and B major, and thus of the Universe and Humanity, unresolved.

Abgesangsszene, Nos. 4 (1979) and 5 (1981)

By Kyle Gann, Professor of Music, Bard College, New Music Critic, The Village Voice

Written for the concert Beyond Good and Evil: Nietzshe and Music, performed on March 8, 2000 at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.

Born in 1952, Wolfgang Rihm worked with the most famous German composer of his youth, Karheinz Stockhausen, at Darmstadt from 1970 on. Subsequently, he seems to have inherited Stockhausen’s mantle, and become the composer in whose music the hopes for a continuing German aesthetic are most heavily vested. The progression is an interesting one, however, and says much about changes in Germany’s climate since World War II. Stockhausen was a highly theoretical visionary, limitlessly increasing the bounds of musical language in every conceivable direction (until some have thought he crossed the line into a peculiar form of creative insanity). The music of his protégé Rihm, on the other hand, is far more introverted and personal, a passionate, non-ironic, and quite unashamedly subjective romanticism devoid of obvious theoretical ambitions.

By the word “non-ironic,” of course, I mean to distinguish Rihm’s romanticism from the American genre of New Romanticism, which styles itself as a kind of postmodern attempt to simulate historical genres. Nothing so insincere, if one may use the word, can be attributed to Rihm, whose attachment to a history he continues as he moves away from it is quite deliberate. He described his work Hamletmaschine, for example, as being set in “’the ruins of Europe,’ whose dust is still the best nourishment for anyone who wants to confront things or wants to know where we come from.” In interviews, too, Rihm has embraced the Romantic label: “The Romanticism that interests me,” he has said, “is a literary Romanticism–Poe, Baudelaire, Hoffmann–art that cuts like a scalpel. Schumann, too; he was very important. Romanticism is such a misunderstood word. People think of it as a 19th-century musical style, but Romanticism can be found in much twentieth-century music, too, as with composers like Luigi Nono or Morton Feldman.”

Nowhere in Rihm’s output could one find a better example of his devotion to the German past than in his series of five Abgesangsszene for voice and orchestra. In the first place, abgesang is a term taken from the German minnesingers of the thirteenth century; it denotes the “B” part of a standardized AAB song form, in which the aufgesang, consisting of two paired stollen, is followed and completed by an abgesang. This is not merely an antiquarian reference, for minnesinger song imprinted a deep archetype on German music, and the operas of Wagner have often be analyzed as based in large-scale AAB forms; most of all, his opera about medieval German music Die Meistersinger, which was, since we’re on the subject, Nietzsche’s favorite among Wagner’s operas.

Secondly, where Stockhausen aimed to create ambitious musical totalities, Rihm has found more poignant significance in musical fragments–reminiscent of that poet of the fragmentary Robert Schumann. The Abgesangszene are based on fragments of what are already among Nietzsche’s most fragmentary writings, the Dionysus-Dithyrambs written in 1888 and described by their author as “the songs of Zarathustra which he sang to himself so as to endure his last solitude.” These, perhaps Nietzsche’s most subjective utterances, were written in the months before his final breakdown of 1889, and their fervent, arrogant self-questioning are often seen as a prelude to it.

Rihm wrote Abgesangsszene Nos. 4 and 5 in 1979-80, soon after the chamber opera Jacob Lenz, his first work to achieve a widespread reputation (and which also occasioned his first visit to the United States, for its American premiere in 1987). Based on the life of an 18th-century sturm und drang poet, Jacob Lenz tells the story of an artist misunderstood by his contemporaries; a similar theme is suggested in these Abgesangsszene, with their texts of loneliness and alienation. No. 4 opens with agitated repeated notes typical of Rihm’s early style. “Not much longer will you thirst,” sings the mezzo-soprano, quoting from the beginning of Nietzsche’s poem “The Sun Sinks,” and then the orchestra pauses in B-flat major for the next words, “O burnt-up heart!” Oppositions are the means by which Rihm creates his texture of paradoxes: rapid repeated notes and tremolos versus more conventional quarter- and half-notes; bursts of activity versus spots of silence and chords held with fermatas; dense dissonances in the bass versus more ethereal, almost-tonal chords in high register. Despite its forays into Webernesque angularity, the vocal line seems to gravitate toward G minor, and at last settles into languid 3/4 meter on the repeated lines: “So here I wait and firmly clasp/What eye and hand will let me grasp!” (from The Wanderer and His Shadow–the poem, not the eponymous book). On the final words “And under me–world, man, and death!”, the music dies away in ethereal dissonances spread throughout the string orchestra, resolving to an F#-major triad in the celesta.

Just as quietly begins Abgesangsszene No. 5, with the unusual texture of low, pianissimo tone clusters in the woodwinds. The vocal part here, articulating a single quatrain of Nietzsche’s poem Fame and Eternity, remains silent until the end of the piece. Trills and scales in the strings build up from a mild D major passage to a “tempestuoso” climax before the tone clusters reenter. The soprano and baritone, when they arrive, sing largely in parallel octaves and then parallel fifths, for Rihm a typically striking textural gesture. Both scenes bear out his statement, “In all of my music, there is a search for emotional extremes.”

Hymnus An Das Leben

By Kyle Gann, Professor of Music, Bard College, New Music Critic, The Village Voice

Written for the concert Beyond Good and Evil: Nietzshe and Music, performed on March 8, 2000 at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.

Born in 1952, Wolfgang Rihm worked with the most famous German composer of his youth, Karheinz Stockhausen, at Darmstadt from 1970 on. Subsequently, he seems to have inherited Stockhausen’s mantle, and become the composer in whose music the hopes for a continuing German aesthetic are most heavily vested. The progression is an interesting one, however, and says much about changes in Germany’s climate since World War II. Stockhausen was a highly theoretical visionary, limitlessly increasing the bounds of musical language in every conceivable direction (until some have thought he crossed the line into a peculiar form of creative insanity). The music of his protégé Rihm, on the other hand, is far more introverted and personal, a passionate, non-ironic, and quite unashamedly subjective romanticism devoid of obvious theoretical ambitions.

By the word “non-ironic,” of course, I mean to distinguish Rihm’s romanticism from the American genre of New Romanticism, which styles itself as a kind of postmodern attempt to simulate historical genres. Nothing so insincere, if one may use the word, can be attributed to Rihm, whose attachment to a history he continues as he moves away from it is quite deliberate. He described his work Hamletmaschine, for example, as being set in “’the ruins of Europe,’ whose dust is still the best nourishment for anyone who wants to confront things or wants to know where we come from.” In interviews, too, Rihm has embraced the Romantic label: “The Romanticism that interests me,” he has said, “is a literary Romanticism–Poe, Baudelaire, Hoffmann–art that cuts like a scalpel. Schumann, too; he was very important. Romanticism is such a misunderstood word. People think of it as a 19th-century musical style, but Romanticism can be found in much twentieth-century music, too, as with composers like Luigi Nono or Morton Feldman.”

Nowhere in Rihm’s output could one find a better example of his devotion to the German past than in his series of five Abgesangsszene for voice and orchestra. In the first place, abgesang is a term taken from the German minnesingers of the thirteenth century; it denotes the “B” part of a standardized AAB song form, in which the aufgesang, consisting of two paired stollen, is followed and completed by an abgesang. This is not merely an antiquarian reference, for minnesinger song imprinted a deep archetype on German music, and the operas of Wagner have often be analyzed as based in large-scale AAB forms; most of all, his opera about medieval German music Die Meistersinger, which was, since we’re on the subject, Nietzsche’s favorite among Wagner’s operas.

Secondly, where Stockhausen aimed to create ambitious musical totalities, Rihm has found more poignant significance in musical fragments–reminiscent of that poet of the fragmentary Robert Schumann. The Abgesangszene are based on fragments of what are already among Nietzsche’s most fragmentary writings, the Dionysus-Dithyrambs written in 1888 and described by their author as “the songs of Zarathustra which he sang to himself so as to endure his last solitude.” These, perhaps Nietzsche’s most subjective utterances, were written in the months before his final breakdown of 1889, and their fervent, arrogant self-questioning are often seen as a prelude to it.

Rihm wrote Abgesangsszene Nos. 4 and 5 in 1979-80, soon after the chamber opera Jacob Lenz, his first work to achieve a widespread reputation (and which also occasioned his first visit to the United States, for its American premiere in 1987). Based on the life of an 18th-century sturm und drang poet, Jacob Lenz tells the story of an artist misunderstood by his contemporaries; a similar theme is suggested in these Abgesangsszene, with their texts of loneliness and alienation. No. 4 opens with agitated repeated notes typical of Rihm’s early style. “Not much longer will you thirst,” sings the mezzo-soprano, quoting from the beginning of Nietzsche’s poem “The Sun Sinks,” and then the orchestra pauses in B-flat major for the next words, “O burnt-up heart!” Oppositions are the means by which Rihm creates his texture of paradoxes: rapid repeated notes and tremolos versus more conventional quarter- and half-notes; bursts of activity versus spots of silence and chords held with fermatas; dense dissonances in the bass versus more ethereal, almost-tonal chords in high register. Despite its forays into Webernesque angularity, the vocal line seems to gravitate toward G minor, and at last settles into languid 3/4 meter on the repeated lines: “So here I wait and firmly clasp/What eye and hand will let me grasp!” (from The Wanderer and His Shadow–the poem, not the eponymous book). On the final words “And under me–world, man, and death!”, the music dies away in ethereal dissonances spread throughout the string orchestra, resolving to an F#-major triad in the celesta.

Just as quietly begins Abgesangsszene No. 5, with the unusual texture of low, pianissimo tone clusters in the woodwinds. The vocal part here, articulating a single quatrain of Nietzsche’s poem Fame and Eternity, remains silent until the end of the piece. Trills and scales in the strings build up from a mild D major passage to a “tempestuoso” climax before the tone clusters reenter. The soprano and baritone, when they arrive, sing largely in parallel octaves and then parallel fifths, for Rihm a typically striking textural gesture. Both scenes bear out his statement, “In all of my music, there is a search for emotional extremes.”

Mitternachtslied Zarathustras (1898)

By Robert Threlfall, Advisor, The Delius Trust, London

Written for the concert Beyond Good and Evil: Nietzshe and Music, performed on March 8, 2000 at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.

Towards the end of his life, Delius told Eric Fenby that he became acquainted with the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche in the 1880s during a holiday spent in Norway. In January 1896 he first met his wife-to-be, Jelka Rosen, in Paris, and her later reminiscences state that the composer was then already familiar with Zarathustra. She also recalled an occasion at her house in Grez-sur-Loing a year later, when he played his setting of the famous Midnight Song, Noch ein Mal, for baritone voice and piano. Among the manuscripts recently deposited in the British Library, London, by the Delius Trust is a scrap of paper bearing the words of this very piece in Jelka’s writing; there also is a manuscript copy, likewise probably in her hand, of the song in question (it has been published in the Collected Edition, Volume 18b).

From the following year (1898) date four more settings of Nietzsche’s words for voice and piano, but the texts then chosen are not drawn from Zarathustra. That same year, however, a much larger score entitled on the manuscript Mitternachts-Lied Zarathustras was completed—the present setting for baritone solo, men’s chorus and full orchestra, which expands the solo song already mentioned and prefaces it with an extended sequence for the solo voice using words also chosen from Das trunkne Lied, the chapter in question. It is of incidental interest to note that Book 4 of Zarathustra, in which this passage occurs, was only made commercially available in 1892 and therefore cannot have formed part of Delius’s initiation into Nietzsche’s work, which took place at a time when only Books 1-3 had been published. This Mitternachtslied, a work then specially cherished by its composer, was first performed in London on 30 May 1899 at a concert exclusively devoted to his music; further performances took place in Elberfeld in 1902 and Basle in 1903.

By then Delius was contemplating a definitive and much-extended setting of Nietzche’s words which was to become his A Mass of Life. An elaborate choral movement for women’s voices and orchestra had already been completed by May 1904 and later that same year, during a working holiday spent with Fritz Cassirer (who had recently introduced Delius’s opera Koanga in Elberfeld), a further selection of passages considered suitable for musical treatment had been chosen from Nietzsche’s book. Intensive work then continued until the bulky score was completed by Autumn 1905. At its close the music of the Mitternachtslied of 1898 was incorporated in its entirety, but women’s voices were then added to the choral sections and five bars of the original quiet ending were deferred by the introduction of an entirely new final episode for the whole vocal and instrumental forces.

Once the Mass of Life was completed, published and played the original performing material of the Mitternachslied section was no doubt placed aside and has apparently long since disappeared. For the present revival, however, it has proved comparatively simple to reconstruct the earlier movement by reference to its surviving manuscript score and by turning to the published material for the final movement of the Mass, eliminating the women’s voices from the choir and restoring the original 5-bar ending instead of the elaborate climax written for the later work. It appears that this revival is not only the first hearing of the original piece in the USA but is probably the first performance in this form anywhere for almost 100 years.

Delius’s richly orchestrated setting opens with a soft drum roll and a slow, rising scale in the basses which recurs a number of times. A four-note, bell-like figure is increasingly woven into the texture as the movement proceeds. It is this last which dominates the final entry of the chorus and underpins the quiet closing bars.

The program of the present concert gives and interesting opportunity for comparison between Delius’s setting and Richard Strauss’s almost-contemporary tone poem, both works inspired by the words of the same prose-poet, Friedrich Nietzsche.

Beyond Good and Evil

By Leon Botstein

Written for the concert Beyond Good and Evil: Nietzshe and Music, performed on March 8, 2000 at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.

The influence of Friedrich Nietzsche on twentieth-century thought can hardly be overestimated. During his lifetime his popularity among his contemporaries was remarkable. Also sprach Zarathustra (1885) was to the fin de siécle generation what Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) had been to young people at the end of the eighteenth century. Nietzsche’s thought was later instrumental in providing the framework for the criticism of the nineteenth century that became central to modernism after 1914. His work celebrated the subjective, the power of the human individual and the triumph of the spirit. Precisely these ideas, however, permitted his work to be appropriated by pre-fascist and fascist movements. In editions skillfully edited by his sister, Nietzsche’s work was rendered popular in a manner fundamentally at odds with its own philosophical positions, and became a rich source of intellectual justification for the Nazis. It took many decades for English-speaking readers to shed the distorted view of Nietzsche as a proto-fascist. French readers, however, saw through the distortion more readily, and immediately following World War II, found in Nietzsche a key forerunner of existential philosophy. Indeed Nietzsche’s influence on Heidegger and Jaspers in the 1920s and 1930s sparked a revival of interest years later in Nietzsche as the father of existentialism. A related aspect of Nietzsche eventually emerged in American intellectual thought in the 1960s, when the image of his troubled brow became an icon for younger generations, and his famous epigraph “God is dead” found its way to many a graffiti-covered wall. This perspective on Nietzsche’s work is perhaps just as distorted as the fascist appropriation, but it clearly demonstrates the one consistent feature of his work: its profound elusiveness, and its shifting and enigmatic rhetoric that seem to lend themselves so easily to a variety of agendas. That protean rhetorical quality has more recently caused Nietzsche once again to occupy center stage in intellectual life, as literary theorists take delight in his breathtaking ability to “deconstruct.” Nietszche’s life has in no small way added to the ongoing fascination with him. He never married, became enmeshed in several triangular relationships, and finally suffered madness as a result of syphilis. Insofar as madness itself has been a category of analysis and criticism in contemporary thought, that fact alone has only inflamed the controversy about the seemingly infinite attributions of meaning behind his words.

What made Nietzsche so popular and electrifying in his lifetime, and what made his writing so important in the twentieth century to groups holding diametrically opposing views, is the fact that, with few exceptions, Nietzsche did not write philosophical treatises. He was first and foremost a poet–a poet in prose and verse. Nietzsche’s aphoristic prose, as rhetorically complex as any poem, was particularly inspired by Emerson, who used a dynamic rhetorical strategy to undermine explicitly the notion of an all-encompassing, logically constructed system. Thus two composers as diverse as Strauss and Delius can find radically contrasting sources in Nietzsche, contrasts which speak to the elusive and almost chameleon-like quality of Nietzsche’s work. It is often asserted that Strauss was no intellectual and could not possibly have understood Nietzsche, yet Strauss’s grasp of the irony, sarcasm, and inversion of conventional wisdom which are the hallmarks of Nietzsche’s writing suggest the deep affinity between philosopher and composer.

Indeed, it seems inevitable that Nietzsche’s philosophy should have a strong connection to music, since his writings are so much about language and the collapsing of those artificial oppositions that underlie our precious systems. What better language than music to escape the tyranny of a certain kind of logical thought? Nietzsche wrote extensively about music and musicians. He harbored ambitions to be a composer and was himself a pianist. He never lost his awe for musicians and for the power of music. In this sense he is a successor to E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) and Jean-Paul Richter (1763-1825), who saw in music an instrument of consciousness, expression, and meaning that eluded, transcended, and overpowered mere reason. Nietzsche was clear about his own debt to Artur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), who privileged music above all other artistic creations in his philosophical analysis of human thought and action.

The one figure who seemed to hold the promise of the realization of music’s cultural power for the young Nietzsche was Wagner. Nietzsche understood Wagner all too well, and later came to revile and parody him. Much has been written about his ambivalent relation to Wagner, but as Kyle Gann correctly points out, Nietzsche’s musical training was (as was also the case with Schopenhauer) the result of a response to pre-Wagnerian romantic music that of the generation of Schumann and Mendelssohn. Wagner’s explosion onto the scene must have looked to Nietzsche like a violent new day, which later darkened into a realization of the dishonesty of Wagner’s aesthetic ambitions and philosophical pretensions. In his later life–his post-Wagnerian phase–Nietzsche greatly admired Bizet: he never lost his affection for Viennese classicism.

However, more important than Nietzsche’s own engagement with music is the blend of poetry and philosophy that constitutes his writings. There is a mystical side to Nietzsche, an affinity for the transcendent and reoccurring. Nietzsche’s fiery prose has remained an inspiration to those who seek to puncture the pieties about progress, religion, morality, and politics. To his readers it is evident that Nietzsche took no prisoners, as it were. In Also sprach Zarathustra he spares no profession of modern faith, including the conceits of science and the purveyors of political utopias. But as he exposed hypocrisy and the limits of language and reason, he reminded his readers that what is to be celebrated is the potential of the human being. He was the psychologist who anticipated Freud in a profound exploration of the complex and counterintuitive geography of the mind. He led a fanatical crusade against the internal mechanisms each of us develop to denigrate ourselves, to feel guilty, to submit to the authority of others, to imitate, to cower before self-proclaimed expertise, and to turn our potential individuality into a docile slavery to convention. Nietzsche hated the tyranny of modern mass politics and the world of journalism and fashion so aptly attacked by Balzac a generation earlier. He also had little use for his fellow academics and the pretensions of scholars and scientists, who in their confidence in explaining the world, reduce it to sets of useless and constricting categories. Amid this rubble left by unrelenting criticism and argument, the artist and the musician must remain unscathed, in order to make art and more particularly music seem in the modern world a still viable instrument for the realization of genuine individuality and originality. Music especially functions as an antidote to the self-imposed spiritual slavery brought to human kind by the wonders of progress.

These ideas were of course an intense inspiration for composers, and resulted in a long and diverse body of music related to the writings of Nietzsche. It is naturally impossible to catalogue tonight all of the ways in which Nietzsche asserted his influence, no more than it is possible for any one of the works performed here to offer the definitive “Nietzsche.” In tonight’s concert, therefore, we ask you to listen to two aspects of Nietzsche that are evoked by this music: the sheer beauty and power of his language, and the radical assertiveness of his allegiance to the creative individual. He is perhaps the greatest German poet after Goethe, and possibly also the thinker who most effectively argues that the making of art and the aesthetic sensibility are neither trivial aspects of humanity, nor the moral equivalents of a cultivated taste for “fashion.” For Nietzsche, the unique greatness of the human condition is best expressed by the capacity for music. We open with an example from Nietzsche’s own musical imagination, then turn to a great twentieth-century composer’s point of view. We then offer an early work by Frederick Delius especially reconstructed for this performance, after which we return to the twentieth century, and then conclude with one of the most familiar and triumphant syntheses of Nietzschean philosophy and music ever created.

Beyond Good and Evil: Nietzshe and Music

03/08/2000 at 08:00 PM – Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center

    Concert Notes