Hear Friedrich Nietzsche’s Classical Piano Compositions: They’re Aphoristic Like His Philosophy

In March, we fea­tured 43 orig­i­nal tracks of clas­si­cal music by philoso­pher and self-taught com­pos­er Friedrich Niet­zsche, bet­ter known as the author of books like Thus Spoke Zarathus­tra and Beyond Good and Evil. Despite the endur­ing impor­tance of his tex­tu­al out­put, Josh Jones not­ed that “what Niet­zsche loved most was music.” He “found the mun­dane work of pol­i­tics and nation­al­ist con­quest, with its trib­al­ism and moral pre­ten­sions, thor­ough­ly dis­taste­ful. Instead, he con­sid­ered the cre­ative work of artists, writ­ers, and musi­cians, as well as sci­en­tists, of para­mount impor­tance.”

Today we offer more of the eccen­tric, high­ly opin­ion­at­ed 19th-cen­tu­ry Ger­man philoso­pher’s musi­cal side. In the playlist just above, you can hear his piano com­po­si­tions as col­lect­ed on Michael Krück­er’s Friedrich Niet­zsche: Com­plete Solo Piano Works. “Most of the works on this album date from the 1860s, when [Niet­zsche] was a cel­e­brat­ed young pro­fes­sor and philoso­pher,” writes All­Mu­sic’s James Man­heim. “The music is light, often qua­si-impro­visato­ry, and some of it resem­bles the key­board music of the com­pos­er whom Niet­zsche extolled lat­er in life, Georges Bizet. The most sub­stan­tial piece, the 20-minute Hym­nus an die Fre­und­schaft, was essen­tial­ly his last com­po­si­tion, but he lat­er reworked it with texts by his then-love inter­est, Lou Andreas-Salomé; that ver­sion was lat­er arranged for cho­rus and orches­tra by anoth­er com­pos­er.”

Man­heim also notes that this selec­tion of piano pieces, in their brevi­ty, sug­gest that “the apho­ris­tic style of Niet­zsche’s late writ­ings was antic­i­pat­ed by his musi­cal think­ing.” Enthu­si­asts of Niet­zsche’s life and career will cer­tain­ly find them­selves mak­ing even more con­nec­tions between his musi­cal and philo­soph­i­cal work than that. But those look­ing for his moti­va­tion to work in this purest of all arts per­haps need look no fur­ther than this typ­i­cal­ly unequiv­o­cal pro­nounce­ment: “With­out music, life would be a mis­take.”

You can find more Niet­zschean piano com­po­si­tions below, these per­formed by Dorothea Klotz. To hear the music, you will need to down­load Spo­ti­fy’s free soft­ware, if you haven’t already.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Clas­si­cal Music Com­posed by Friedrich Niet­zsche: 43 Orig­i­nal Tracks

130+ Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es

The Phi­los­o­phy of Niet­zsche: An Intro­duc­tion by Alain de Bot­ton

A Free Playlist of Music From The Works Of James Joyce (Plus Songs Inspired by the Mod­ernist Author)

The Dig­i­tal Niet­zsche: Down­load Nietzsche’s Major Works as Free eBooks

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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