Strauss Also sprach Zarathustra – Bass Part
Edited by Paul Ellison
Title: Also sprach Zarathustra
Composer: Richard Strauss
Edited By: Paul Ellison
The bass part for Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra has been edited by Paul Ellison, in-demand double bassist, professor, presenter, and former Houston Symphony Orchestra principal bassist of 23 years. Ellison's bowings, fingerings and other editorial markings have been added throughout the score.
Composed in 1896, Also sprach Zarathustra is a tone poem by Richard Strauss inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical treatise of the same name. The composer conducted its first performance on November 27, 1896 in Frankfurt.
The opening of Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra is one of the most recognizable musical excerpts in history, having been used in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The music begins in the lowest depths of the orchestra, almost out of the range of human hearing. Trumpets then enter in fanfare-like unison based on perfect intervals. The fanfare is repeated three times, each increasing in intensity, before culminating in C major which, along with B major, is one of two tonal centers that the work pivots around.
Although influenced by Nietzsche's work, the philosophical connections between the music and the treatise are not entirely clear. Strauss himself stated that:
"I did not intend to write philosophical music or to portray in music Nietzsche’s great work. I wished to convey by means of music an idea of the development of the human race from its origin, through the various phases of its development, religious and scientific, up to Nietzsche’s idea of the superman. The whole symphonic poem is intended as a homage to Nietzsche’s genius, which found its greatest expression in his book Thus Spake Zarathustra."
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Dear bassist or interested party,
All my editing is done in the spirit of "living editions." They are never finished or to be considered set in stone. Bowings, articulations, fingerings, dynamics and phrasings may change with conductors, historical performance considerations, change of instrument, bow or strings, differing venues, individual physical considerations, change of climate or altitude not to mention additional acquired knowledge or change in personal taste. Asking oneself to have about five ways to play most passages seems to cover the fluctuating circumstances mentioned in addition to giving oneself reason and context for choices to be made. Each set of performances of any major work is likely to prompt some change(s). The very nature and future of music as an art form demands live, dynamic, fresh interpretations which frequently necessitates realizing that there actually is no "rule book" and that the "bass police" will never actually show up.
Please accept this editing in the spirit of knowing that our skills and abilities are in constant flux and may require many possibilities. Here's to great music making.
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