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For the opening ceremony of Bayreuth Festival, Nietzsche was engaged by Wagner to write an opening speech, an address about him. The proﬁle of Wagner spoke not only about the celebrated maestro, but was a slashing criticism of Wagner’s compositional period of his youth in Paris. According to Nietzsche’s formulation “none of the Romantic composers was as miserable a composer as Wagner in his youth in Paris”. In 1871, a 27year-old Nietzsche sent a birthday gift to Wagner’s wife Cosima: a four-hand piano composition with rather pompous title The Echoes of New Year’s Eve with Processional Song, Peasant Dance, and the Pealing of Bells. Cosima played the work with the conductor Hans Richter. Wagner’s reaction seems mild compared to the way Hans von Bülow passed judgment on another four-hand composition that Nietzsche sent him the following year.
“I have never seen anything like it on paper. You have raped the muse of music,” wrote the German conductor after reviewing Nietzsche’s work The Manfred Meditation, in 1872.
His criticism squelched any future musical aspirations of Nietzsche. Bülow’s negative comments seem more personally than aesthetically motivated, especially for Nietzsche’s recent publication of The Birth of Tragedy with its Wagnerian accolades which could have done nothing to satisfy Bülow (his wife Cosima left him to live with Wagner).
In 1882, the 38-year-old and respected philosopher returned once more to composing, and produced one of his last pieces, The Prayer to the Life, based on a poem by a 21-year-old Russian girl, Lou Andreas-Salomé, from St. Petersburg, with whom he had fallen in love. The aﬀair was rather short. The Prayer to the Life, for voice and piano was later instrumented by Nietzsche’s friend and musician Peter Gast (his own name was Koselitz).
If Nietzsche celebrated Wagner in his youth, in his last two written works, The Case of Wagner and Nietzsche Contra Wagner (1888), he reacts virulently against Wagner’s operatic texts and mainly against his eternally repeated melodies, endless variation principle, and against revolutionary contributions of Wagner to the history of music, or rather all that was the most characteristic for Wagner. Not always with an exquisite and seleetive taste does Nietzsche understand the novelty of Parsifal. He writes: “Hegel, he is the European taste, but Parsifal, it is the Hegelianism in music.” He criticizes the ceaseless repetitions of melody as the means by which Wagner loses the sense for rhythm. Nietzsche sharpens the polemics on these issues. I disagree with Nietzsche, for instance, in the area of modulations. Repetition of melody and motives in various modulations brings us to a realm of love passions and pain. In reality, they are suppressed emotions of Wagner for unattainable love to Madame Wesendonck, the wife of his bread-giver. The great work Tristan und Isolde originated from Wagner’s frustration. All my life, I have returned to Wagner’s music, to his Overture and to the Love-Death, the closing scene of this opera because this work always gives me goose bumps, even though I know what is going on in the harmony and what will come from measure to measure. These two passages and Parsifal are some of the greatest music written in the history of music.
Nietzsche divides Wagner between a young revolutionary who believed in socialism and a post-revolution Wagner who had lost all his illusions about the 1848 revolution.
(“The masses are moved by instinctive and dynamic forces rather than by knowledge,” he writes in an unpublished pamphlet On the State and Religion, which he sent to Nietzsche two years before the origin of The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music. Only great art, Wagner states here, which the masses understand as entertainment, lifts up only a few individuals (the cultural and spiritual elite) to a higher knowledge and spheres. Only great art is able to reconcile their illusion with reality in order to survive the reality of life. The death of gods in Also sprach Zarathustra, which serves as the enciphering of Wagner in the ﬁrst part of the book, is not at all by chance. This meaning pertains to the death of German culture with its chief genius, actor, sorcerer, and enticer–Wagner. The death of gods indicates the ashes from which a new phoenix – a new man of future – an overman, arises. Wagner’s music represents the last breath of “decadent” German culture. We have to be cautious when Nietzsche speaks about decadence. Baudelaire granted decadence a positive meaning and the higher sensibility of arts. Wagner, therefore, presented the higher sensibility in music. In Nietzsche Contra Wagner, all aspects of Wagner’s art undergo strong criticism. Nietzsche is no more a supportive philosopher and the disciple of Wagner, but rather an independent philosopher. The follower becomes an eagle (Nietzsche as Camel, Lion, and Child, essays by Hal Sarf).
Nietzsche as philosopher rejected 19th-century values, particularly the institution of Christianity and Romantic philosophy that believed in a transcendent realm beyond the physical world. His ﬁrst book, The Birth of Tragedy, shocked his peers by linking ancient Greek tragedy to modern operas of Wagner, whose music, political ideas, and lifestyle were considered radical. Nietzsche saw Wagner’s operas as an example of Dionysian art, which tears down illusions to show the shabby reality of life, as opposed to Appollinian (not Apollonian) art, which portrays a world of order, moderation, and clarity. Only a few years later, Nietzsche reversed his opinions of Wagner, in part because of Wagner’s Parsifal, a new Christian mask of Wagner, the former revolutionary in European revolutions in 1848.
Nietzsche highly valued Tristan und Isolde as the sweetest and deepest music. He valued it more than the music of Mozart, Beethoven, or Brahms. For a short time he was blinded by the lightness and passions of George Bizet’s Carmen. This opera was convenient to him as musically “healthy” opera. He assumed that the development of music should be directed by this paradigm of opera. As we know, Wagner’s contribution to the history of Late Romantic music and its decomposition was continued by Arnold Schoenberg.
There are letters in which Nietzsche is an inseparable part of Wagner (he writes: “I loved him, I had only him among German friends.”). When Wagner died in Venice in 1883, the ﬁrst volume of Zarathustra appeared in Sils-Maria, Switzerland.
In place of Judeo-Christian tradition, Nietzsche proposed that humanity’s reason for being and its system of morals should be based completely on human realities. In Also sprach Zarathustra and The Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche suggested that human behavior is motivated by the will to achieve power. A person who controls his desires and channels them into productive work, particularly artistic creations, becomes what Nietzsche called an overman.
In 1889, Nietzsche collapsed on a street in Turin, Italy, while witnessing a scene of brutality (a horse beaten to death by a man). During the following eleven years of his illness, he retained his ability to improvise and play the piano until the last weeks of his life (the last photographs and notes were made by his friend, the artist Ohde, in Weimar before Nietzsche’s death).
Although most remember him for his provocative philosophical ideas (Ecce Homo, Joyful Science, Beyond Good and Evil, Untimely Considerations, Human All to Human, The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music, Thus Spake Zarathustra, The Will to Power, Nachlass, and Dithyrambs, his music still remains unknown.
The most diﬃcult feature in interpreting his musical works is the consideration of tempi and expression. The consideration of correct phrasing of “naked music” with scarce markings may give the full meaning of his music, full of poetic charm and pathos. The technical performance of Nietzsche’s works should never reach a “virtuostic vision” of this music, it should be performed rather as “honest German music.” Nietzsche’s philosophical works inspired Richard Strauss to compose his symphonic poem Also sprach Zarathustra. This book of Nietzsche is, from my point-of-view as a pianist, written in the form of a symphony in four movements. It would be worth pursuing research on the musicality of Nietzsche’s poetic language as expressed in Zarathustra’s language. Nietzsche and Schopenhauer inspired the fourth movement of Mahler’s Third Symphony and The Mass of Life by English composer Frederick Delius.
*** Elena Letňanová recorded two CDs Friedrich Nietzsche Piano Works for label DOMusic Productions, Classic Talent DOM 2910 31, Antwerp (1997) and Friedrich Nietzsche Klaviermusik und Texte for Unesco Burgenland, 7100 Neusiedl am See, Austria (2000).
Friedrich Nietzsche se vyjadřoval takřka ve všech svých ﬁlozoﬁckých dílech o umění, hlavně o hudbě. Dříve než byl ﬁlozofem, byl skladatelem mnohých vokalních a instrumentalních opusů (více než 70) a to už před osudovým setkáním s Richardem Wagnerem.
Po bombardování Výmaru během druhé světové války se zachovalo jen 40 jeho skladeb, mnohé jen ve fragmentární podobě nebo bez určení instrumentace. Nietzsche se učil hrát na klavír jako devítiletý chlapec a vypracoval se na zručného pianistu a improvizátora; seriózní skladatelskou přípravou však neprošel a jeho kompozice se vyznačují mj.
i chybnými akordickými spoji. Nietzsche komponoval v aforistických krátkých formách, většinou jsou to variace. Skladatelské vzory nalézal v Schumannovi, Wagnerovi a Beethovenovi – vysoce si jich cenil jako vzorů dionýzského umění. Rozsáhlé a ambiciózní fantazie, rapsodický Hymnus na přátelství a dramaticky vzrušená kompozice Ermanarich připomínají vyrazově Beethovena a Lisztovy transkripce. Mezi nejlepší díla řadím 17 písní lyrického, schubertovskeho rázu, a romantické, poeticko-melancholické klavírní kusy jako Při svitu měsíce na pustě, No tak se zasměj, a pro klavír na čtyři ruce Monodii pro dva – Chvála soucitu.
Friedrich Nietzsches philosophische Werke sind voll der Bemerkungen und Betrachtungen zur Kunst, insbesondere zur Musik. Mann konnte versucht sein, Nietzsches Interesse für die Musik aus der für ihn so schicksalhaften Begegnung mit Richard Wagner herzuleiten. Dem widerspricht aber ein umfangreicher musikalischer Nachlass, mehr als 70 vokal und instrumental Werke, der zur Hauptsache vor der Wagnerbekannschaft stammt. Nur 40 Werke überlebten den zweiten Weltkrieg; viele sind Fragmente, oder Kompositionen ohne klare Instrumentation. Nietzsche erhielt als Knabe von neun Jahren Klavierunterricht und wurde ein guter Klavierspieler und Improvisator, aber die Grundlagen des Komponierens wurde ihm nicht gegeben hatten; seinen musikalischen Arbeiten haftet immer etwas Laienhaftes an. Nietzsche entwickelte eine kurze aforistische Forme von Variationen. Schumann, Wagner, Beethoven bedeuteten ihm das Höchste in der Musik.
Die umfangreichste Fantaisien mit der Charakteristik von Rapsodien, wie Hymnus an die Freundschaﬀ oder dramatische Ermanarich errinnern uns an Beethoven und an Lisztische Transkriptionen. Gelingen ist ihm im Bereich der lyrischen Schubertischen Lieder mit Klavier (17) und der poetischen, melancholischen, romantischen Klavierstücken wie Im Mondschein auf der Puszta, So lach doch mal und Monodie und vierhändigen Monodie à deux (Lob der Barmherzigkeit).
The word “taste” is an expression that is frequently used in general conversation;
however it also assumes the role of a professional term in the ﬁelds of aesthetics, psychology and social sciences, even though this position is of a consistently more problematic nature.1 The deﬁnition of the word “taste” can roughly be described as a more or less cognizant set of selection criteria either in favor of something (preference of something) or, conversely, the refusal of something.2 We often hear such statements as “XY has good taste” or “XY has bad taste” (the expressions “to have taste” and “to not have taste” have the same signiﬁcance). Just as often we relate the word “taste” (as well as the opposite expression of “bad taste”) with some object (or possibly action) and say that something is either tasteful (in good taste) or tasteless (in bad taste).
The concept of taste is of an axiological nature, i.e., it relates to values and evaluation, and this nature has two levels. Taste is the evaluation of something that is external to a person; the form of the judgment is often banal (as well as basal!) – “I like it vs. I don’t like it”.
At the same time this taste, or the bearer of this taste, is evaluated by others (also bearers of taste) and in short is characterized as either having or not having taste (a person with good or bad taste).3 It can be stated that the area of taste judgments greatly surpasses the area of art as was already well noted by Kant: this relates to behavior as well as lifestyle in the widest scope of its deﬁnition. Let us also note that in speaking of taste, tastefulness, etc., the expressions are used only in relation to realities created by a person – expresI discussed some aspects of this problem in my study “K problému hudebního vkusu” [“On The Problem Of Musical Taste”] (Hudební věda 2 : 99–116) and in the entry “Taste” in my book “Stručný slovník hudební psychologie” [“A Concise Encyclopedia of Music Psychology”] (Prague, 1984). and even this text, which understandably focuses more on the aesthetical rather than on the psychological and sociological elements, is partially based on the concept. This text which understandably focuses more on the aesthetical rather than on the psychological and sociological approach is actually the ﬁrst version of one of the chapters of the publication being prepared on music aesthetics.
In foreign language dictionaries the French word “goût” (note the relationship with the Latin word “gusto”) has as its primary meanings ﬂavor, preference, favor, tendency, taste, and smell.
The expression “taste” (and especially “tasteless” and “tastelessness”) is often used in wider circumstances, for example behavioral circumstance not only of a social nature but of a moral nature as well.