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«MUSICOLOGICA OLOMUCENSIA VII Univerzita Palackého v Olomouci Olomouc 2005 The present volume was submitted to print on 6 April 2005. Dieser Band ...»

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“I am not a man, I am dynamite.” Thus spoke Nietzsche, the multidimensional philosopher who prophesied in the late 19th century the polymorphal methodologies of the next century, which were termed “postmodernism”. Nietzsche was a perspectivist- evolutionist (in a lineage from Charles Darwin through Pierre Teilhard de Chardin to Henry Bergson). He was one of the sharpest critics of all values in the 19th century with their logical consequence of nihilism; he was an experimenter with ideas (and his own life), a seeker of truth, and the inventor of the specific language of Zarathustra and the concept of the overman. He also was the creator of Dionysian and Apollinian principle in the arts and the idea of eternal return. We also note his keen diagnostics of the culminating and hypertrophic phases of German culture in the late 19th century.

He died in 1900, anticipating the future plurality in philosophy and arts, and in a certain way the idea of a united Europe.

Four years before his death, Nietzsche became an artistic muse of Europe, influencing the after-war intellectuals, philosophers, and poets, such as Martin Heidegger, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Richard Rorty, and inspired expressionists such as Eduard Munch (the postmortal portrait of the philosopher from the photograph), Franz Marc, Max Ernst, Hans Arp, Giorgio de Chirico, Vassily Kandinsky, Franz von Stuck, Belgian Leon Spilliaert, and others, and in music more than 180 composers from many countries for creation of more than 335 works of art. Among them are Richard Strauss, Arnold Schoenberg, Gustav Mahler, Carl Orff, Paul Hindemith, Anton Webern, Ferruccio Busoni, Sergei Taneyev, Hugo Wolf, Lukas Foss, and John Cage. Every decade we could add new names, most recently the name of Polish composer Ryszard Gabrys. The works of these composers include various forms – songs, sonatas, string quartets, symphonies, operas, masses, oratorias, requiems.

A part of Nietzsche’s philosophy was misinterpreted, misused, and misdirected by German nationalist socialism. The term “overman” was used in ways other than these intended by Nietzsche. Hitler had himself photographed in Nietzsche’s Museum in Weimar with the post-mortem mask, provided by Nietzsche’s sister Elizabeth. After 1945, mainly East German marxist philosophers maintained a picture of philosopher as an “apologist of imperialism and racism,” in spite of a new reception of Nietzsche’s works after 1945 in the new democratic and more liberal environment of Europe. The earliest reception of Nietzsche’s works and inspiration began in poetry and philosophy in Japan in 1893–1903.

Postmodernism observed that Nietzsche’s texts do not have just one meaning, but more meanings, therefore there is not just one Nietzsche, but many Nietzsches. Postmodernism further extracted from Nietzsche his relativism, the critical, experimental, and parodistic elements of the way of his thinking (in Zarathustra’s language), the freedom of scientific knowledge (in Joyful Science), and a wide spectrum of issues he addressed. Adorno spoke in his radio interview with the Austrian ORF Vienna 1 about the idea that Nietzsche’s thoughts cannot be taken literally or to lean to only one, single meaning because those who think this way would be manipulating his text (giving a one-sided view). The philosopher’s brilliant language also contributes to this, by avoiding traditional philosophical terminology, preferring a language that is on the edge of philosophy, literature, poetry, evoking sometimes metaphysical imagery. Nietzsche has inspired not only Heidegger and other philosophers, as well as European artists, but also Sigmund Freud in the subconscious and dream areas, as Lou Andreas-Salomé asserted in her visits to Freud in Vienna in her later years. Nietzsche was the first psychoanalyst, even before Freud.

Arthur Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner were the most important in the development of the young student of theology, who later became a leading philologist in Basel and a 24-year-old professor at the university there.

Few musicians, music theorists, and philosophers realize that the German philosopher and poet Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was also a pianist and composer of more than 70 compositions. Although he wrote no major works and left only sketches for an opera and several sonatas, Nietzsche composed many short piano pieces, two long compositions for piano, and songs, most of which he wrote before the age of 30. His works include 40 compositions that survived the bombardment of Weimar: piano solo pieces, piano four hands works, 17 songs with piano accompaniment, a piece for violin and piano, and a quintet with four voices and piano. Other compositions are for a capella chorus with piano or orchestral accompaniment, an early mass and oratorio, and many unfinished pieces for which the instrumentation is unclear. In all, he produced 12 piano pieces, 17 songs with the accompaniment of piano on the texts of Adalbert von Chamisso, Alexander Pushkin, Sándor Petöfi, Joseph von Eichendorff, Nietzsche and others. The majority of compositions were composed between 1861 and 1864.

For those expecting the radical ideas of Nietzsche’s philosophical writings to appear as dissonances and irregular rhythms in his music, these intimate, fragile works will be a surprise. Nietzsche’s lack of formal music training is evident in the conservative harmonic progressions, frequent chord misspellings, sparse dynamics and phrasings, and simple formal structures. Nevertheless his works show a natural gift for writing melodies that are reminiscent of Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert.





Born in 1844 in Roecken, Germany, Nietzsche was the descendant of a long line of tradesmen. His father, however, was a Lutheran pastor who played piano, arranged choral music, and supervised performances of such scope as Handel’s Messiah. Nietzsche was only five when his father died. Nietzsche’s mother gave him music lessons and most likely gave him beginning piano instruction. Although not formally trained, he spent hours improvising and composing at the piano. At the age of 13, Nietzsche entered the prestigious Schulpforta boarding school and began secretly writing music and poetry as a way to find freedom within the strict confines of the institution.

Nietzsche’s compositions of 1854–1874 were mostly short pieces, romantic and lyrical in style. There were also fragmentary sketches of intended bigger works that showed orchestral thinking. His solo piano pieces were one to one-and-a-half pages long, following a theme-and-variations format. He seldom wrote in sonata form except for attempts in his youth. The year 1862 was especially productive. Such pieces as Hero’s Complaint, Hungarian March, There Runs a Brook, In the Moonlight at the Puszta, the symphonic poem Ermanarich, and others appeared. Ermanarich is internally connected with Hero’s Complaint and with the idea of a heroic individual. These compositions are highly

romantic, written in traditional musical language and expressing a variety of emotions:

sadness, melancholy, seriousness, contemplation, happiness, drama, pathos, and even anger. A charming poetic mood, similar to Schumann’s piano music, always prevails, for instance in pieces like In the Moonlight at the Puszta. It is interesting that Nietzsche also treated the same musical subject in literary form – in essay or in poetic form. Usually he read these essays to his professor August Koberstein for whom he created his the most known essay from the period of his youth – about Hölderlin. The composition The Fragment in Itself is written in the chord structure of a protestant chorale. This composition is the most beautiful and the most melancholic composition, the finished fragment, ending with an open end and is a certain reply to Immanuel Kant’s “thing in itself.” This piece may be repeated endlessly, eventually to a total tapering off of dynamics. This composition might be also a witty reply to his friend, who reproached Nietzsche for his unfinished fragments. We have to realize that in this period Franz Liszt had finished symphonic poems, piano concertos, and Wagner, who drew from Liszt, had already completed numerous operas, including the revolutionary work Tristan und Isolde.

Being a self-taught composer (and self-taught philosopher, too), Nietzsche’s harmonies, forms, and musical structures never reached the level of such great figures as Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, or Wagner. Harmonically, Nietzsche does not go beyond using diminished seventh chords or ninth chords and the tonal relationships of Classical and early-Romantic composers. Modulations are not so interesting or breathtaking as in Wagner. Short pieces often use the simple progression I-IV-V-I. Tertiary relationships of his chords sometimes have interesting diatonic and chromatic chord shifts as in the Hero’s Complaint. Dramatic sections of such pieces as The Sketch on Byron’s Foscari have chromatic alterations and diminished-seventh chords.

There are also fragments that he wrote as a youth, including Great Sonata, Sonatina, and short sonatas in G and D major. The opening passage of D major Sonata seems to be an exercise, using extremes of dynamics instead of writing memorable themes and their development.

Two extensive and ambitious piano compositions are the symphonic poem Ermanarich from 1862, and Hymn to Friendship, subtitled Overture – The Festive Procession of Friends toward the Temple of Friendship, composed in 1873. Both are less traditional in form than the shorter works, and they are also less complete. These compositions are highly programmatic, composed with the features of fantasies and rhapsodic parts. Hymn to Friendship is too mosaic, almost a conglomerate, and lacks the episodes of equal proportions. In Ermanarich (which deals with the assassination of the heroic Ostrogothic king Ermanarich by his own son Randhwe), the only organizing idea is the repeated section of the wedding march which holds the form together.

A homophonic texture dominates all Nietzsche’s piano compositions and songs. Fourvoiced structures have the highest voice carrying the melody, sometimes doubled by an internal voice. The bass voice is often treated as a cantabile line, usually in octaves.

Nietzsche used polyphonic structures and counterpoint only occasionally, as in Hymn, which has widely written polyphonic lines.

Nietzsche’s musical style could never be characterized as mature. How the further development of young Nietzsche might have been if Wagner had not have discouraged him when Nietzsche was 29. Janáček’s musical style only matured by the time he was 55!

Despite wonderful romantic expression, and of a certain internal voice of poet, his piano works lack Schumann’s multifaceted rhythms and impulsiveness. Nietzsche did not copy Wagner, although a lot of time he wrestled with the Overture transcriptions for piano to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. But his music shows a link to Wagner’s predecessors. The cascades of octaves in Hymn are reminiscent of Beethoven, the structure There Runs a Brook appears similar to Schumann. The tremolo and bravura passages in the Sketch to Byron’s Foscari and Ermanarich are somewhat Lisztian. And Chopin-like etude-like textures appear in In the Moonlight at the Puszta. Sometimes his music seems to be almost orchestral reminiscent of piano transcriptions, and almost descriptive, such as the last part of Ermanarich.

In 1864 at the age of 19, Nietzsche enrolled at the University in Bonn to study theology and classical philology under Friedrich Wilhelm Ritsches with the intent of becoming a minister. A solitary youth, began with the radical ideas, especially with the theme of Dionysian principle in arts and with the meaning of the joyful and the tragic in the old Greek tragedy. The poem My Unknown God begins the series of his first reflections on moral values and criticism on Christianity as an institution. By Christmas of that year he had proclaimed that God was dead, and the following year transferred to Leipzig University, dropping theology to concentrate on classical philology.

During his years in Leipzig, beginning in 1868, Nietzsche was influenced by the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer especially by Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung and by his aphoristic way of expressing himself, what was reflected in later Nietzsche’s philosophic aphorisms and aphoristically short forms of musical pieces. The 1868 encounter with Wagner, a devotee of Schopenhauer and his idea of compassion, developed into an inspiring life-long relationship. In encounters the both discussed Schopenhauer’s ideas on music and philosophy, for instance: If philosophy could be transmitted as music then it would be a true philosophy. Apparently Schopenhauer had touched upon the main problem of philosophy, which always dealt with the phenomena, reality, to be translated into exact terms. The idea of Schopenhauer’s compassion found a fertile soil also in the last opera of Wagner (Parsifal). I regard Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde as well as Nietzsche’s music the most reminiscent of Schopenhauer, whether indirect, by its noble melancholy, passions of restraint and tribulation of love or direct, by the titles of compositions, as for instance, Nietzsche’s violin piece Pain Is the Fundamental Tone of Nature.

By this time, when Wagner was a celebrated personality, the most philosophical composer among composers in Germany, 24-year-old Nietzsche already had an impressive musical output of almost 70 compositions. Wagner soon included Nietzsche among his circle of friends. Nietzsche became closer to Wagner while teaching at the University of Basel and developing ideas for his first book The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music (1872), which supported Wagner’s musical concepts.



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