Composing Philosophy? Songs on Poems of Friedrich Nietzsche

29 May 2022, 4:00pm - 5:15pm

Free entry! No booking required.

A special event in collaboration with Oxford University's Faculty of Music, featuring Oxford Lieder Young Artists

Shortly following the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s retreat from public life in 1889, composers started to turn to his works for inspiration. Initial and still well-known responses came in the form of Richard Strauss’s tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zoroaster, 1896) and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony no.3 (1896), which set a short poem from Zarathustra to music. But since those earliest years, hundreds of composers have turned to Nietzsche’s texts—especially his poems—as fodder for compositions of all kinds.

Devised and presented by Jennifer Ronyak (Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual European Fellow in the Faculty of Music) this short song recital features performers from Oxford Lieder’s Young Artist Programme. It juxtaposes two very contrasting song sets based entirely on Nietzsche’s poetry, one by the early twentieth-century Croatian composer Dora Pejačević, and another by the contemporary German composer Wolfgang Rihm, before concluding with Mahler’s setting from his Symphony no.3.

In a short concluding discussion, Jennifer Ronyak and Associate Professor of German David Groiser will reflect on the interaction between Nietzsche’s philosophical projects, the role of his literary and poetic impulses within them, and how these topics relate to musical attempts to engage with Nietzsche through song.


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