Work of the week – Thus spoke Zarathustra

By Konzerthaus Berlin March 11, 2024


Alexander Kasper © Marco Borggreve

A work whose beginning made film history as the accompaniment to a monkey throwing a bone? Double bass tremolo, trumpet fanfare, cheering timpani beats? Exactly: Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" sets off at dawn to Richard Strauss' "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" and propels mankind into outer space! Since then, countless films and series have taken up the music to suggest - often parodically or figuratively - a reach for the stars.

The hermit in Friedrich Nietzsche's often discussed and ideologically abused text of the same name inspired the piece of music from 1896. He visited people to tell them about a new path without God - and of course they don't want to hear what he preaches about "overcoming oneself" on the path to the "higher man". They cling to traditional religion, academic knowledge and social order.

As a "radical, if not revolutionary, Dionysian counter-image to the pessimism of the fin de siècle", Nietzsche's ideas, which he puts into the mouth of his  prophetic Zarathustra figure, were particularly popular in "literary and artistic circles that saw themselves trapped in the rigid corset of tradition with their urge for something new," writes to our programme booklet author Michael Kube.

In his sketches, Richard Strauss writes at the beginning of the music: "The sun rises. The individual enters the world or the world enters the individual."

He assigns nature and the jubilant victory of sunlight over the nightly darkness the key of C major, which is fundamental to Western ears. By contrast, B major belongs to humanity, its busyness and its sensitivities, so that two keys that are far removed from each other but chromatically related dominate. Although the work closes seemingly reconciled with the "Nachtwandlerlied", the low strings rumble again in the background with the sunrise trumpet motif from the beginning. Whether you ultimately interpret this slightly pessimistically as "Nothing new under the sun!" or rather optimistically as a "repetitive game of self-renewal" is completely up to you, of course.


For this event, you will not receive tickets through our webshop. You will therefore be redirected to an external page of the organizer. If you have any not completed bookings on, they will be dissolved after 20 minutes.