Richard Strauss’ Eine Alpensinfonie: A Culmination and Rejection of Nineteenth Century Philosophical Influences
Tula, Elisabeth Chloe
Submission to the Friends of Fondren Library Undergraduate Research Awards, 2017. This paper was originally prepared for Course MUSI 551 (Fall 2016): The Music of Strauss, given by Professor Dr. Walter Bailey, Department of Music History.
The goal of this paper is two-fold: on one hand, exploring how Alpensinfonie both challenges and stays true to traditional symphonic idioms, and on the other, examining how it fits into Strauss’s compositional career, personal religious journey, and the greater landscape of early 20th century leanings towards modernism. This paper is part analysis, part biography, and part historical analysis. Strauss clearly had a unique (and changing) perspective on Friedrich Nietzsche’s writings, and this often drew sharp contradictions in his life; one can view evidence of how this plays into Alpensinfonie, especially when contrasted against Zarathustra (1896), which shares many motives with Alpensinfonie (which, coincidentally, was sketched out as early as 1899, before Strauss’s operatic career took off). While Un Alpensinfonie is not his definitive - and far from his final - work, it is an important landmark in Strauss’s ever-changing compositional perspective. In Un Alpensinfonie, Strauss overturns norms of the early twentieth century by constructing an intense, one-movement symphony that all but replaces lofty reverence of deity figures with a more universal reverence of nature, adding to the collection of earthconscious masterpieces (e.g. Rite of Spring, La Mer, The Planets for instance) that inspired a irreversible large-scale shift to programmatic and agnostic-leaning music in the European modernist movement to follow.