Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 – Work no. 54 in our collection

Richard Strauss (11.02.1864 – 08.09.1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. Strauss is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier, Elektra, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs and his tone poems. Strauss’s first piece to show his mature personality was the tone poem Don Juan, written in 1888. He went on to compose a series of increasingly ambitious tone poems including Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Ein Heldenleben and Also Sprach Zarathustra.

We have chosen to include Also Sprach Zarathustra in our collection of masterworks although many of the above works are worthy of inclusion. Also Sprach Zarathustra was composed by Richard Strauss, in 1896, and it was inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical novel of the same name. The work is divided into nine sections played with only three definite pauses. The sections are named after selected chapters of Friedrich Nietzsche’s novel:

  1. Einleitung, oder Sonnenaufgang (Introduction, or Sunrise)
  2. Von den Hinterweltlern (Of Those in Backwaters)
  3. Von der großen Sehnsucht (Of the Great Longing)
  4. Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften (Of Joys and Passions)
  5. Das Grablied (The Song of the Grave)
  6. Von der Wissenschaft (Of Science and Learning)
  7. Der Genesende (The Convalescent)
  8. Das Tanzlied (The Dance Song)
  9. Nachtwandlerlied (Song of the Night Wanderer)

Its sunrise theme became hugely popular after its use in the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey and it will be instantly recognisable to most people.

With more than forty versions readily available on CD, many of them containing excellent performances, none can quite match Fritz Reiner’s 1954 recording with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

View the other works in our collection.