Of men & mountains

Strauss’s last tone-poem, An Alpine Symphony, wasn’t written until 1915 (the composer’s previous essay in the genre, the Symphonia Domestica, was completed back in 1903). There was a reason for this long gestation period (up until the Domestic Symphony the largest gap between symphonic poems had been six years). From 1903 onwards the composer’s focus shifted from concert hall to opera house. And, after the success (and scandal!) of Salome, he produced a string of extremely well received stage-works (Electra, Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos) and it was only in 1911, moved by the early death of Mahler, that he turned his attention back to orchestral music.

The actual creation process of this final tone-poem was rather odd, too. It started out, it would seem, as some sort of sequel to Also Sprach Zarathustra based on Nietzsche’s attack on Christianity, Der Antichrist. It ended up (mostly) as a paean of praise to the splendour of mountains and their surroundings…

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