File spoon-archives/nietzsche.archive/nietzsche_1998/nietzsche.9809, message 34


Date: Wed, 16 Sep 1998 21:17:23 EDT
Subject: Re: Nietzsche's music


The only piece of music published by Nietzsche in his lifetime was "Hymnus an
das Leben" (Hymn to Life) for Orchestra and Chorus. The music was written by
Nietzsche, the words (poem) by Lou Salome and the orchestration was by Peter
Gast. The full score was  published by E. W. Fritzsch in 1887 and a
piano/vocal reduction was issued sometime later (but before 1894). Both
publications are extremely rare. See my "The Nietzsche Canon" (University of
Chicago Press, 1995) pp. 140-149 for further details and reproductions of the
title pages and the first pages of the soprano and violin parts.

The Hymnus has not yet been recorded. It received its premiere performance in
Annaberg in October of 1893 -- conducted by Gast -- and a more cosmopolitan
first performance in Vienna in 1926. The American premiere was by the Brooklyn
Philharmonic in January of 1987. (My wife's comment after that performance of
the seven-minute work was that it was "a very pretty piece of music to have
been written by the man who killed God.") The New York Times critic commented
that "Nietzsche's music, in a conservative, mid-19th-century German idiom,
seems oddly solemn, even turgid, compared with Andreas-Salome's hot-blooded
poetical passion." Personally, I was just tremendously delighted to have
actually (finally!) to have heard the work. I remember it being heroic but (as
the Times critic noted) not overly so. 

The early 1920's saw the publication of a number of Nietzsche's musical works
under the supervision of his sister, Elisabeth. (She would do ANYTHING to turn
a buck.) The definitive publication of Nietzsche's music is "Friedrich
Nietzsche der Musikalische Nachlass" compiled and edited by Curt Paul Janz and
published by Barenreiter-Verlag of Basel, Switzerland in 1976. It is
notoriously difficult to find a copy of this book.

I own five different CD's of Nietzsche's music:

1. "Piano Music" performed by John Bell (Newport Classic Premier NPD 85513)
2. "The Music of Friedrich Nietzsche" piano, violin, tenor (Newport Classic
NPD85535)
3. "Lieder / Piano Works / Melodrama" Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Philips 426
863-2)
4. "Nietzsche - Melodramen" speaker, guitar, flute (Zytglogge-Verlag ZYT4279)
5. "Melodramen von Liszt, Strauss und Nietzsche" (Jecklin JD570-2)

I have listened to them all a few times but I must admit that these are not
the piano CD's that spring immediately to mind when I am in the mood for
classical piano (but then I'm an Uchida/Mozart fan). The melodramas are just
that -- melodramatic readings of spoken texts with a musical accompanyment.
Quite frankly, my German is nowhere near adequate enough to even begin to
appreciate what is going on there.

If you need more detailed information than that, just ask....


William H. Schaberg
Athena Rare Books


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