By the end of the 19th century, the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche were powerfully influential, provoking reactions from thinkers across the intellectual spectrum, though perhaps most fruitfully in the arts. Richard Strauss composed his ambitious tone poem, Also sprach Zarathustra, on ideas derived from Nietzsche's book of the same name, and continued his explorations of the philosopher's writings by using Der Antichrist as source material for the work that became Eine Alpensinfonie. More directly confronting the Biblical figure of the Antichrist, though only loosely connected to Nietzsche, was Rued Langgaard's only opera, Antikrist, which was so controversial that it was heavily censored and remained unperformed until 2002 when Thomas Dausgaard led its first performance. For this 2019 release, Dausgaard conducts the Seattle Symphony in the Prelude to Antichrist, presenting it as an appetizer for Strauss' monumental score, which dominates the program. Both composers are associated with the post-Romantic aesthetic, though Langgaard's music was also strongly colored by the modern innovations of Carl Nielsen, while Strauss appears as nothing less than himself, a larger-than-life master of the orchestra, whose music is instantly recognizable. Because Nietzsche's ideas are no longer essential to appreciate the music, listeners may listen to Eine Alpensinfonie with little concern for its underlying program, and relish the magnificent orchestration on its own terms. Meanwhile, Langgaard's prelude may inspire the curious to seek out Dausgaard's 2006 release of the complete opera on Da Capo.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Eine Alpensinfonie (An Alpine Symphony), Op. 64, TrV 233|