The compositions of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) are not as well known as his philosophical writings or his poems but Nietzsche himself, as an artist, thought of music as his primary means of expression. In a letter of October 1887, he wrote.
… there has never been a philosopher who has been in h« essence (im Grunde) a musician to such an extent as I am
Before he established himself fully as a philosopher, he had already created a significant iuvre as poet and compose Poetry remained essential to his philosophical writings, but musical composition became less significant for him as his involvement with the written word increased. As a consequence, his musical works are usually considered to be of no importance (or an understanding of his philosophical thought. Nietzsche himself, however, was well aware that words can create as much confusion and misunderstanding as they can serve as a means for understanding. If the intention of his words would lead to misunderstandings, he thought of his music as a possible corrective. In a letter to the conductor Felix Mottl, written only two years before his mental collapse, he wrote::
I wish that this piece of music (his Hymnus an das Leben) may stand as a complement to the word of the philosopher which, in the manner of words, must remain by necessity unclear. The affect of my philosophy finds its expression in this hymn.
Apparently Nietzsche was well aware of the limitations of rational arguments, and he emphasized that an aesthetic understanding of life is at least as valid as a rational one. Music, the art of shaping time, is man’s most intense response to the ever changing patterns of life. In the form in which it developed in Western culture, it takes much of its power from stating and resolving tensions (dissonances). To think of Nietzsche’s writings as musical scores in the form of written essays may give a new dimension of meaning to his often violent and contradictory utterances.
A knowledge of Nietzsche’s musical compositions is a key to the fundamental characteristics of his mind. So far, however, they have attracted little attention. There are several reasons for this. During his life, they remained unknown except to his family and a few friends. Even after his philosophical work became widely known, his efforts at composition were regarded as amateurish and insignificant. Their critical rejection by Wagner and Hans von Bülow was better known than their actual sound since they were not available in printed or recorded form. It was only in 1976 that Curt Paul Janz published them in a complete and scholarly edition (Friedrich Nietzsche, Der musikalische Nachlass, Bärenreiter Verlag Basel). But even this definitive edition has not yet effected a widespread acquaintance with Nietzsche’s music.
The purpose of this collection of performances is to make Nietzsche’s compositions directly accessible to the listener. They are presented in chronological order, and they are intended as AN AUDIBLE companion to the edition of Janz. Beyond their documentary relevance for Nietzsche scholars and students, they should also be interest purely as works of art and help to bring Nietzsche closer to those who have difficulties in understanding and appreciating the words of the philosopher.
Nietzsche’s first attempts at composition date from 1856, when he was not yet twelve years old. These first attempts are rather ambitious piano sonatas and orchestral works; in spite of their lack of technique and formal coherence they demonstrate the boy’s eagerness to participate in his culture, not only as a learner, but also as a creator Mr learned to play the piano quite competently and became a good improvisor, but he never learned the foundations of harmony and counterpoint in a directed manner At age fourteen, he became a pupil in a renowned boarding school, Schulpforta, which provided a thorough humanistic education and also leisure for the students to develop then own interests With two other students, he founded the society Germania for the creation and critical discussion of works of music, poetry, literature, and philosophy. Nietzsche’s submissions for this society were primarily in the form of compositions sketches for symphonies, oratorios, tone poems. Practically all of these remained incomplete; the majority were sacred compositions During the summer of 1861, Nietzsche must have experienced a crisis of self consciousness, realizing that he was not able to control largo musical forms and also turning away from sacred texts For the next few years, his musical efforts were directed towards the creation of shorter piano pieces and songs. written mostly during holidays and as presents for family or friends. In 1864, when he turned twenty, he became a student of philology at the University of Bonn. During his years as a student, he wrote only a few occasional compositions.
In 1868, he met Richard Wagner. His ensuing friendship with the master and his wife Cosima became a matter of pivotal importance for his life. On his development as a composer, however, it seems to have had little impact. Soon after his first meeting with Wagner, he was invited to fill the chair for philology at the University of Basel. The young professor shared accommodations with Franz Overbeck, Professor of Theology, who was equally interested in music and with whom Nietzsche played frequently piano duet. This may have motivated Nietzsche to write several large compositions for piano duet between 1871 and 1874, works which were intended for orchestra but were never orchestrated. The last of these was a Hymnus auf die Freundschaft (Hymn to Friendship), written during 1873 and 1874. It consists of a hymn in three stanzas with extended orchestral introduction and interludes, but he was unable to find a suitable text for the hymn. Eight years later, in 1882, he encountered a poem by Lou Andreas-Salome entitled Gebet an das Leben (Prayer to Life) which he accepted as an expression of his basic attitude towards life. He noticed that this poem could be used, with some minor adaptations, as a text for the melody of his Hymnus auf die Freundschaft of 1874. This became his last composition. It was later orchestrated by Peter Gast. Nietzsche wrote about it (in a letter to Hans von Bulow). At some time in the near or distant future, it should be sung in my memory, the memory of a philosopher who did not have a present, who did not even want to have one.
Neither Hans von Bulow, nor the musical and philosophical world since, have taken notice of this wish of Nietzsche. But music, once it has been notated, has an enduring voice. Nietzsche’s music has remained for us a testimony of surprising freshness and clarity to help to achieve an understanding of his person and his thought.
In this collection, all completed compositions of Friedrich Nietzsche are recorded, with these exceptions:
1. Not included are works written before the age of thirteen, and works which are technically too imperfect to warrant a performance, or which are fragments or preliminary sketches.
2. Also not included are five larger compositions, among these the last and most serious efforts of the composer Nietzsche. These were intended for performance by orchestra, or choir and orchestra. They remained in their preliminary state for piano solo or piano duet. It is hoped that they can be recorded in orchestrated version at a later date.
Some of the compositions of Nietzsche, particularly those written at a young age, required more or less extensive editing before they would be ready for performance. A few compositions were re-created from fragments, or completed where part of the original manuscript is lost. This was done in cases where the existing fragments were of such beauty that their omission seemed a great loss. Arrangements and re-creations were provided by Wolfgang Bottenberg.
It is important to remember that most of the compositions in these recordings were not written by the philosopher Nietzsche, but by a boy and youth who had no formal training in composition. Even if they are not a testimony of his maturity, they are the products of the same person who later wrote Also sprach Zarathustra. The performers who produced this disc have come to respect and love the music of the inspired and talented youth for its intrinsic value, beyond its biographical significance.
This recording was originally produced at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, as an interdisciplinary project involving the Department of Music and Lonergan University College. Research assistance was provided by the Faculties of Fine Arts and Arts and Science. Special thanks are due to Dr. Curt Paul Janz, the editor of Nietzsche’s music, for valuable advice concerning the performances of specific compositions.
Lauretta Altman studied at Juillard School of Music in New York and with Philip Cohen in Montreal. She is frequently heard in solo and chamber music recitals and on Radio Canada, and she is co-founder of Festival Alexandria.
Wolfgang Bottenberg, born in Frankfurt, Germany, studied philosophy and theology prior to music studies in Canada (Edmonton) and the USA (Cincinnati). He is active as composer, teacher, and researcher.
Valerie Kinstow studied at Acadia and McGill Universities and with Nigel Rogers in London. She is featured on several recordings and is heard frequently on radio and in recitals.
Sven Meier studied in Switzerland and France and with Eleanora Turovsky in Montreal. He has been active in several European music festivals as performer, teacher and conductor.
Erik Oland studied at Mount Allison and Laval Universities. He is known throughout Canada for his opera and concert performances and is featured on several CD labels.
The Orpheus Singers are a Montreal choral society giving regular concerts which feature exemplary performances of traditional and contemporary works.
Peter Schubert, director of the Orpheus Singers, holds a Ph.D. in musicology from Columbia University, and is a member of the Music Faculty of McGill University.
Mark Corwin studied at the Universities of Victoria and Wisconsin-Madison where he received his doctorate. He is a composer and instructor of electroacoustics, recording art and computer applications at Concordia University,
DISC I: Compositions of Nietzsche’s Youth (1857-1863)
1. Allegro, for piano. Written before 1858 as one of several multipartite piano compositions.
2. Hoch tut euch auf, for choir. Written December 1858 for his family. The original consists only of parts which do not always match, the present version is a re-creation. The composition begins in G major and ends in E major. The text is from a German translation of Handels The Messiah:
Lift up your heads, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;and the King of glory shall come in.
3. Einleitung (Introduction), for piano duet. Probably written as an orchestral composition which was never completed. Extensive revisions were required since the young composer’s imagination
exceeded his technical skills.
DISC I: Compositions of Nietzsche’s Youth (1857-1863)
1. Allegro, for piano. Written before 1858 as one of several multipartite piano compositions.
2. Hoch tut euch auf, for choir. Written December 1858 for his family. The original consists only of parts which do not always match, the present version is a re-creation. The composition begins in G major and ends in E major. The text is from a German translation of Handels The Messiah: Lift up your heads, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;and the King of glory shall come in.
3. Einleitung (Introduction), for piano duet. Probably written as an orchestral composition which was never completed. Extensive revisions were required since the young composer’s imagination exceeded his technical skills.
4. Phantasie, for piano duet. This is also the beginning of an attempted larger orchestral work.
5. Miserere, for five part choir a capeila. Written in summer 1860, as a contribution for “Germania.” Of Psalm 51, a prayer for mercy and forgiveness, Nietzsche uses only every second verse.
6. Einleitung, for piano. This may be part of extensive sketches for a Christmas Oratorio of 1861, as are the following two pieces.
7. Einleitung, for piano.
8. Huter, ist die Nacht bald bin? (Watchman, is night ended soon?), for choir. This was left fragmentary and required extensive editing. The text is apparently by Nietzsche himself: Watchman, is night ended soon? Darkness covers the earth, the worlds are filled with gloom.
9. Presto, for piano duet. This may be the beginning of a fast
movement of a symphony which was never completed.
10. Mein Platz vor der Tiir (My place in front of the door), song. With this song, Nietzsche began a new phase as composer, limiting himself to small, but successfully completed works. Written in fall 1861, the song uses a text by Klaus Groth which was originally in low German dialect. Nietzsche used a translation into high German by A. V. Winterfeld. The place before the door of the child’s home was a paradise of happiness and contentment, but the growing child wants to see the larger world. His grandpa tells him that it will happen soon enough, and so it does, but it brings much less happiness than holding his hands as a child.
11. Heldenklage (Heroic lament), for piano. This is the first of a series of character pieces for piano, written in 1862 as a contribution for the “Germania.”
12. Kiavierstuck, for piano. The original manuscript breaks off after twenty-three bars. The composition heard in this performance has been revised and completed in the style of Schumann, whose music Nietzsche played frequently at that time.
13. Ungarischer Marsch (Hungarian march), for piano. Triple meter and frequent changes of tempo and dynamics make this into a strange kind of march.
14. Zigeunertanz (Gypsy dance), for piano. The influence of Liszt is unmistakable. Part of the original manuscript is lost; the composition has been completed into what the editor estimated were its original dimensions.
15. Édes Titok (Sweet secret), for piano. This is very likely a piano version of a song based on a poem by Sándor Petőfi which could not be traced.
16. Aus der Jugendzeit (From the times of my youth), song. Written in 1862 to a text by Friedrich Ruckert.
For the man who has returned emptyhanded to the village a his childhood, the songs of the swallows are a reminder . past happiness, never to return.
17. So lach doch mal (Just laugh for once), for piano duet. The piano version of a song based on a poem by Klaus Groth, an exhortation to shed gloomy thoughts in the face of nature’s beauty.
18. Da geht ein Bach, for piano. This piece exists both in version for piano, and as a song.
19. Da geht ein Bach (a brook moves through the valley-ground), song. Since Nietzsche wrote the text into the piano part, without a separate part for the voice, there is some uncertainly concerning the exact pitches for the voice. The text is by Klaus Groth.
The heart is as restless as the brook flowing to the mill in the valley. At the mill, the brook comes to a rest and so does the heart, because inside the mill, there is song and the expectant face of the beloved.
20. Im Mondschein auf der Puszta (By moonlight in the Puszta), for piano. Written during the summer of 1862.
Unserer Altvordern eingedenk (zwei polnische Tanze) In memory of our ancestors (two polish dances)
21. Mazurka, for piano
22. Aus der Czarda, for piano. Nietzsche wrote these two dances in November 1862 for his sister Elisabeth. His family name may have given him the idea that his ancestors were Polish, which is not the case. In these two dances, there is some confusion with Polish and Hungarian folklore: the “Mazurka” has a gipsy flair, while “Aus der Czarda” is a mazurka.
23. Das zerbrochene Ringlein (The broken ring), melodrama for speaking voice and piano. Written in January 1863 to a text by Joseph von Eichendorff.
My sweetheart has lived in a mill in the valley,
and she gave me a ring as a token of her love.
She is gone, her promises broken,
and with her promises, the ring broke as well.
I do not know what to do; perhaps
I should become a minstrel, or a soldier,
or perhaps I should die to find rest forever.
24. Albumblatt, for piano. This composition uses the first twenty-three bars of the melodrama and joins it to a new ending. With its floating tonality, it is an excellent example of Nietzsche’s improvisatory style.
25. Wie sich Rebenranken schwingen (Like the movement of vines), song. The text for this song is by August Hoffmann von Fallersleben who visited the school where Nietzsche was a pupil in October 1863. This may have been the occasion for writing this song.
Just like the vines and morning glories of my garden, my thoughts wind themselves around the image of my beloved.
DISC II: Compositions of Nietzsche’s Maturity (1864-1882)
1. Eine Sylvesternacht, for violin and piano. Written during the earliest days of 1864 for Nietzsche’s childhood friend Gustav Krug who became a composer and set many of Nietzsche’s texts to music. This is the first extended composition of Nietzsche which he completed, and also his only complete chamber music work. A decade later, Nietzsche used its introduction as part of two orchestral works.
Nine Songs (Nrs. 2-10). During the months of November and Decmber 1864, at a time when he had just started with university studies in Bonn, Nietzsche wrote a cycle of twelve songs of which only nine are extant. They were written for Marie Deussen, the sister of one of his “Germania” friends. Apparently, Nietzsche thought quite highly of these songs. In 1866, when he was a student in Leipzig, he copied some of them and sent them to the famous actress Hedwig Raabe.
2. Beschwnrung (Conjuration), song. The text is by Alexander Puschkin, translated into German by Theodor Opitz.
If it is true that the tombs open in moonlit nights, then I will be there to call to me my beloved Leila, no matter in what shape she will appear. I will not call her because I want to accuse those who caused her death, but only to tell her that I still love her.
3. Nachspiei (Postlude), song. This, and the following three songs, are to texts by the Hungarian poet Sándor Petőfi (1823-49). It is likely that Nietzsche used a translation into German by Karl Maria Kertbeni. I want to leave the world of illusions and false promises to live in a lonely forest, to listen to the rustling of leaves and the song of birds, and to end my life like the sun sets in the evening.
4. Standchen (Serenade), song. Text by Sándor Petőfi. St is a rainy evening; the nightingale sings her melancholy song. Do you hear it, my beloved girl? My love to you is in this song.
5. Unendlich (infinite), song. Text by Sándor Petőfi. Only you, my girl, give me light and hope. If your love to me is only a dream, then I am without consolation in heaven or on earth. I stand under the brooding willows whose hanging branches are an image of my soul which, like the migrating birds, wants to fly away from its sorrow. It is as great as my love, which knows no bounds.
6. Verwelkt (Wilted), song. Text by Sándor Petőfi.
You have been my flower – it has wilted, my sunshine – now it is night, the wings of my soul – it can no longer fly, the warmth of my blood -1 die from coldness.
7. Ungewitter (Storm), song. Text by Adalbert von Chamisso (1781-1838).
From the top of his castle, the King looks into his lands as a storm approaches. His wife reminds him of their past love, but the King’s thoughts are heavy with the fear of a coming storm which will be more powerful than his forces of resistance.
8. Gem und gerner [With more and more pleasure), song. Text by Adalbert von Chamisso.
It was a difficult day and I am tired. Coming home, my beloved spouse gives me a cup of red wine. The red glow of the wine and the sparkle of her eyes bring back the strength of youth with which I can stand firm in the storms of life.
9. Das Kind an die erloschene Kerze (The child to the extingished candle), song. Text by Adalbert von Chamisso.
Poor candle, your joyful light is extinguished. Does this have to be? I am sad because I am alone in the darkness, but even more so because I had wished that your light would bring joy to all in the world.
10. Es winkt und neigt sich (It beckons and bends), song. The authorship of this poem is uncertain. It may be by Sándor Petőfi, but since no comparable poem by Petőfi could be found, the authorship of Nietzsche himself is a possibility.
From my window I see a vine and its reddening leaves. It speaks to me about the end of ail love.
11. Junge Fischerin (Young fisher-maid), song. This is the only song by Nietzsche where the authorship of himself as the writer of the poem is certain. The poem dates from July 1862; the song
was written three years later, in July 1865.
It is early morning; the first light rises from the fog of night.
I am sad, and I am afraid to look at the fog. Is it hiding death?
Or is it hiding you as you come riding to quiet the heart of the poor fisher’s girl?
12. O weint urn sie (O weep for those), choir and piano. Text by Lord Byron, from “Hebrew Melodies.”
In December 1865, Nietzsche worked on some musical settings of texts from the “Hebrew Songs” by Lord Byron.
He never completed these, and some of the sketches are missing. This performance is based on a reconstruction of one of these sketches where as much of the original of Nietzsche was used as was possible. Only the first stanza of Byrons poem “Oh! Weep for Those” is used.
Oh weep for those that wept by Babel’s stream.
Whose shrines are desolate, whose lands a dream;
Weep for the harp of Judah s broken shell; Mourn –
where their God has dwelt the Godless dwell.
13. Herbstlich sonnige Tage (Days of sunshine in autumn), choir and piano. Text by Emanuel Geibel.
Nietzsche wrote this composition in April 1867, probably for friends in Leipzig where he studied at that time. For his setting, the composer uses six of the nine stanzas of the poem.
Days of sunshine in autumn bring rest and healing to the wounded heart. As I am walking through valleys and mountains, I observe the changes in the colours of the leaves. I feel like in all creation spirit and world touch each other to produce a profound harmony
14. Ade! Ich muji nun gehen (Farewell, I am now leaving), choir of men’s voices. This was written in August 1870 when Nietzsche, as medical assistant, was on his way to the front of the French-Prussian war. It was not possible to trace the author of the poem.
Farewell! I am now leaving
for war along the Rhine.
My comrades there are standing,
I want to join their line.
I know your zest and fire,
Will join with heart and hand,
With only one desire:
To save the Fatherland.
15. Das “Fragment an sich”, piano. Written in October 1871, probably for a meeting of friends whom Nietzsche met during his holidays in Leipzig. In October 1864, he had written a similar composition which was not completed, but which contained a few lines of Goethe’s poem “Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen ass” (He who never ate his bread with tears). The title may be both a pun on Kant’s “Das Ding an sich” (the thing in itself) and a response to a remark by one of his friends that most of his compositions had remained fragments. Its intent may be more ironic than serious.
16. Kirchengeschichtliches Resnonsorium (Church History Responsory), for voices and piano. Written as a birthday present for Franz Overbeck, November 16, 1871. This is a rare example of the humour of Nietzsche, at the expense of Carl Rudolf Hagenbach, an elderly colleague of the two young professors. It is also a parody of church music, both of the antiphonal style of renaissance choral music, and of a Lutheran chorale, “Wer nur den lieben Gott lasst walten” (He who only trusts in God). To deepen the impression of a mock parchment, the manuscript was written on gilded, slightly burned paper. Since an actual performance was quite likely not intended, at least not in a serious manner, rather extensive editing was necessary to make this composition performable by a choir.
Choir of lazily stretching theology students: I do not want to take Church History with Professor Overbeck, but rather with Professor Hagenbach who knows that we only study to make sure that we get a good salaried position. Song of consolation:
1.01 Allegro (2:29)
1.02 Hoch Tut Euch Auf (2:20)
1.03 Einleitung (2:06)
1.04 Phantasie (1:58)
1.05 Miserere (7:17)
1.06 Einleitung (1:30)
1.07 Einleitung (1:30)
1.08 Hüter, Ist Die Nach Bald Hin? (1:10)
1.09 Presto (0:30)
1.10 Mein Platz Vor Der Tür (1:45)
1.11 Heldenklage (1:50)
1.12 Klavierstück (2:03)
1.13 Ungarischer Marsch (1:30)
1.14 Zigeunertanz (2:15)
1.15 Édes Titok (Still Und Ergeben) (1:59)
1.16 Aus Der Jugendzeit (2:50)
1.17 So Lach Doch Mal (1:45)
1.18 Da Geht Ein Bach (1:29)
1.19 Da Geht Ein Bach (1:30)
1.20 Im Mondschein Auf Der Puszta (1:10)
1.21 Mazurka (0:52)
1.22 Aus Der Czarda (1:24)
1.23 Das Zerbrochene Ringlein (3:55)
1.24 Albumblatt (2:45)
1.25 Wie Sich Rebenranken Schwingen (1:06)
2.01 Eine Sylvesternacht (11:10)
2.02 Beschwörung (3:06)
2.03 Nachspiel (1:50)
2.04 Ständchen (1:30)
2.05 Unendlich (2:00)
2.06 Verwelkt (1:11)
2.07 Ungewitter (1:45)
2.08 Gern Und Gerner (1:16)
2.09 Das Kind An Die Verloschene Kerze (2:02)
2.10 Es Winkt Und Neigt Sich (1:44)
2.11 Die Jungle Fischerin (3:42)
2.12 O Weint Um Sie (2:48)
2.13 Herbstlich Sonnige Tage (2:28)
2.14 Ade! Ich Muss Nun Gehen (0:57)
2.15 Das “Fragment An Sich” (2:03)
2.16 Kirchengeschichtliches Responsorium (2:31)
2.17 Monodie A Deux (Lob Der Barmherzligkeit) (4:40)
2.18 Gebet An Das Leben (Text: Lou Andrea Salomé) (2:23)
Documentary recordings of 43 works for voice, violin, choir, piano, and piano duet Enregistrement
Lauretta Altman, piano;
Wolfgang Bottenberg. piano (in works for piano duet);
Valerie Kinslow, soprano;
Erik Oland. baritone;
Sven Meier, violin;
The Orpheus Singers, dir. Peter Schubert
Artistic supervision, editing and recreation of scores: Wolfgang Bottenberg.
Recording supervision and digital editing: Mark Corwin.
Audio mp3 320@kbps.