On CD: Nietzsche's Piano Music
Every few years, there's a new recording of Friedrich Nietzsche's music, and a CD of his complete piano works, performed by Michael Krücker, just appeared this summer. The interest, of course, is (to paraphrase Samuel Johnson) not that the music was written well, but that it was written at all. I wasn't actually familiar with Nietzsche's compositional activities, and there's a reason for that: he wrote most of his work as a teenager, after which he largely abandoned composing. He was also self-taught. This is, in short, eager juvenilia.
It may be mainly of interest to die-hard Nietzsche fans. On the other hand, it's not unpleasant to the ear. It's also striking that Nietzsche's music partakes of some of the same rhetorical flourishes as his philosophical writings: both have what you might term an aphoristic grandiosity. Many of the works on this disk are mere fragments, but most of them give the sense of a young person flinging himself passionately at his subject. Like Nietzsche's prose, his music can be purple; it is tinged, like his writing, with heavy sentiment, which in the music is expressed in passages of such sweetness as to border on the kitschy. (There are more than a few hints of Broadway, or, in a more appropriate vernacular reference, Viennese waltzes.) The difference is that Nietzsche's love for music, unlike his writing, is expressively impotent; the form is similar, but content, beyond a sense of dumb urgency, is lacking.
Still, the CD is a snapshot of a period -- one imagines it being representative of the output of dozens of young men in the German-speaking world in the 1860s and 1870s -- and on this disk it's lovingly rendered by Krücker, who almost manages to make the music sound better than it is, in part by sheathing it in a haze of near-dissonance through the excessive use of pedal.
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