Friedrich Nietzsche


Born: October 15, 1844; Röcken   Died: August 25, 1900; Weimar, Germany  
Friedrich Nietzsche is of course better known as a philosopher than as a musician. But he was a composer of some note and a musicologist who wrote a fair amount on the direction and purpose of music. He initially admired Wagner's art, but eventually grew to reject it as inept, as he did the entire Romantic movement. Nietzsche composed almost all of his works from 1854 to 1874, writing in a Romantic though seldomly original style. Nietzsche's Read more father, Ludwig, was a Lutheran minister, as were both of his grandfathers. Ludwig died when Friedrich was only five, but the child thrived in a home environment where his mother and sister were joined by his grandmother and two aunts. Nietzsche showed musical talent from an early age, becoming quite proficient on the piano in his childhood and writing many compositions in his teens. He was strongly encouraged by his family in his musical and educational activities. In 1858, he enrolled at the Pforta School, the most prestigious Protestant boarding school in Germany. He did well there, but began suffering from migraine headaches, an affliction he would endure throughout his life. In the years between 1861 - 1864, Nietzsche was at his most productive as a composer, turning out most of his piano oeuvre. Among the works were Da geht ein Bach and the Polish Dances (2), both from 1862. In 1864, he enrolled at the University of Bonn, where he studied classical philology and theology. By this time, he was already becoming skeptical of religious ideas he had been taught as a youth. Owing to an acrimonious climate at the university brought on by disagreements between the professors Otto Jahn and Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, Nietzsche transferred to the University of Leipzig the following year, where Ritschl took on a professorship. Nietzsche's studies were interrupted for a year by military service. An injury curtailed his length of duties, and he returned to Leipzig University in 1868. Nietzsche met Wagner that year and became a close friend and supporter for nearly 20 years. At that same time, Nietzsche was appointed a professor at the University of Basel in classical philology. He became a citizen of Switzerland the following year, and in 1870 he volunteered to serve in the Franco-Prussian War as a medical orderly. This military experience turned sour for him, as well: he contracted dysentery after one month and returned to Basel, but now with his health in steady decline. Nietzsche composed two piano duets in the years 1871 - 1874, Nachklang einer Sylversternacht and Manfred-Meditation, and he kept focused on music in other ways. As the decade wore on, he gradually turned against Wagner's art, not least because of the Christian references in Parsifal. His first book appeared in 1872, The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music. In 1879, he retired from his Basel post, but continued to write philosophical works. The years 1883 - 1885 saw the publication of two more books, The Gay Science and Thus Spake Zarathustra. Perhaps his most productive year was 1888: he wrote or finished Ecce Homo (his autobiography), Twilight of the Idols, The Anti-Christ, and Nietzsche Against Wagner. In 1889, Nietzsche collapsed in Turin and suffered a devastating mental breakdown, one from which he would never recover. Deranged, he spent time in an asylum in Basel, then was looked after by his mother until her death in 1897. His sister cared for him until his death from syphilitic paralysis. Read less

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