Friedrich Nietszche, classical music composer

Friedrich Nietszche


Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet and classical philologist. He was also a minor composer.  The following is from a dissertation by Benjamin Moritz for the degree of Doctor of Music from Northwestern University:

The writings of Friedrich Nietzsche have had an immense impact on modern culture. Seen as a prophet of modernism, Nietzsche laid the groundwork for existentialism, served posthumously as a rallying point for the Nazi party, and eloquently described the end of romanticism. Countless books interpret and reinterpret Nietzsche's enigmatic epithets, and that number increases almost daily as scholars rush to investigate the rich depths of his literary output2. Despite this abundance of research and his almost universal recognition as a thinker, a crucial aspect of his output is almost entirely overlooked: Nietzsche's music. This is true despite the fact that music in general, and his own compositions in particular, played a large role in Nietzsche's life. He summed up his feelings toward music in a letter to friend and fellow musician, Peter Gast, writing: "Life without music is simply an error, a pain, an exile."

In his short span of musical output—from his maturity (about 1862) until his descent into insanity in 1889—he completed fifteen lieder, nine solo piano pieces, a piece for choir and orchestra, and several piano four-hands pieces, in addition to a large number of sketches and half-finished compositions. Yet the very fact that Nietzsche composed music comes as a surprise to most, and the musical community is even less aware of this music than the philosophical community. When Nietzsche's music is discussed, the analysis usually proceeds through a thick mist of disparaging irony, betraying the critic's lack of objectivity from the outset. In a review of Nietzsche's songs in Musical Heritage, for example, the author protests describing Nietzsche's lieder as an accomplishment, writing: "It may seem churlish to point out that the only respect in which that 'accomplishment' is not in dispute is in comparison with the even less accomplished works for piano duet." Yet the review in question evaluates a CD released by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau—a respected musician who has repeatedly praised Nietzsche's musical output and willingly chose to record his music.6 This raises several questions that will form the core of this investigation. What does Nietzsche's music have to offer? Why is his music largely overlooked or, worse yet, summarily rejected? In what way is music a truly crucial aspect of Nietzsche's life and output? In short, why study Nietzsche's music?

To answer these questions, one must understand the unique position Nietzsche holds in western history and be able to appreciate the unique Nietzschean perspective that western culture has unwittingly adopted.

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Composer Title Date Action
Friedrich Nietszche Da Geht Ein Bach - There goes a brook 04/30/2011 Play Add to playlist
Friedrich Nietszche Heldenklage - A hero's sorrow 04/30/2011 Play Add to playlist