Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thanks Mr. Kubrick, but what about the other 32 minutes?

I wonder what it would it have been like sitting in the audience of the world premiere of Richard Strauss' tone poem, Also sprach Zarathustra on November 27, 1896. Most people recognize this piece as the opening theme to Stanley Kubrick's epic 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. This 2 minute opening movement is now part of our cultural play list, and was added to the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry in 2012. Everyone has heard it. But what few people know are the other 32 minutes of the piece after this famous introduction is over. Immediately after the opening, there are 8 other segments that follow the book of the same title written by Friedrich Nietzsche, bringing the literary story to life in breathtaking symphonic fashion. It's almost too bad that the opening is so monumental because it casts a shadow on the rest of the piece.This work in it's entirety is every bit as moving as other well known works by Strauss such as his Alpine Symphony, Death and Transfiguration, and Ein Heldenleben.
But that opening theme.....well what can you say? It's incredible.
I can only imagine what it must have been like getting seated in the symphony hall on the evening of it's premiere in Frankfurt, Germany in 1896 and watching the orchestra, under the direction of the composer himself, play this for the first time. Talk about being blown away.....or having the hair on your neck stand up...experiencing this piece for the first time must have been absolutely jaw-dropping.
So do yourself a favor and revisit this classic, but stay for the other 32 minutes to get the full effect.

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