An Alpine Symphony

The work is the concept of the composer based is to design with musical means climbing an Alpine summit and return to the valley during a day. An Alpine Symphony is a typical example of the musical category of program music.


The idea for the program goes back to an experience from Richard Strauss' childhood. He had even went in the summer of 1879 on the home garden in the Bavarian Alps and had come in a thunderstorm. This event he presented a day later at the piano dar. From this memory, he developed the concept. The symphonic poem underlying mountain climbing together with subsequent descent begins with the introductory section of night, passes through following stations and ends again in a section known as the Night:

Night - Sunrise - The Rise - entry into the forest - walk beside the brook - Am Wasserfall - Release - On flowery meadows - Auf der Alm - Through thicket and scrub on the wrong track - on the glacier - Perilous moments - At the Summit - Vision - mists rise on - The sun darkens gradually - Elegy - silence before the storm - thunder and storm, descent - Sunset - finale - night.

But it is probably only been the intention of the composer's part to describe a mountain hike. The path described by Strauss, and again leads from the night on the summit back, can be regarded as quasi symphonic representation of a human life. Respect of which the composer was probably inspired by the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, because sketches for Alpine Symphony bear the title of Nietzsche font Antichrist. Thus, the Alpine Symphony is directly related to Strauss's tone poem Thus Spake Zarathustra, which is also influenced by Nietzsche spoke.

Another interpretation approach of the program is to enhance the form of the Alpine Symphony with the structure of classical drama in communication.


The composer has prescribed the following cast:

  • 2 large flutes
  • 2 small flutes ( both 3rd and 4th great flute)
  • 2 oboes
  • 1 English horn (also 3 oboe)
  • 1 Heckelphone
  • 1 clarinet in Eb
  • 2 clarinets in B
  • 1 Clarinet in C ( also bass clarinet in B)
  • 3 bassoons
  • 1 contrabassoon ( bassoon at the same time 4 )
  • 4 Horns
  • 4 tenor tubas in B and F ( at the same time 5 - 8 Horn )
  • 4 Trumpets
  • 4 Trombones
  • 2 bass tubas
  • 2 harps (possibly double )
  • Organ
  • Percussion ( 3 players): wind machine, thunder machine, chimes, cymbals, bass drum, snare drum, triangle, stove bells ( cowbells ), Tam-tam
  • Celesta
  • Timpani ( 2 players )

At least:

Behind the scene, " in case of emergency to fill out the orchestra":

In addition to in large orchestras from paragraph 94 (at the end of the vision ) 2 large flutes, 2 oboes are doubled, the time - and C- clarinet.

A total of at least 107 musicians are needed so loud Strauss' information. From the instructions of the composer to reinforce some instruments beyond the minimum if possible, and to provide their own music for the orchestra remote backstage, would result according to the ideas of Strauss' an optimum cast of 129 musicians, or even more.

To carry out the long bonds of the wind Strauss suggests invented by Bernhard Samuel " Aerophon ", a foot-operated air pump with rubber hose to the player's mouth.

The performance of An Alpine Symphony takes about 45-50 minutes.


It was the stated intention of the composer to make the listener the stations of a mountain hike as Tongemälde immediately perceptible to the senses. This target approaches the work, how many music critics say, in an impressive way. The effect is mainly due to the sophisticated and nuanced orchestra instrumentation. Not without its charm is also the exciting juxtaposition of very subtle and rather banal effects ( cow bells, thunder sheet ).

It seems justified to regard the work as a symphony. However, it is not a strict formal requirements of a symphony in the classical sense enough composition, although there is the work of the composers of thematic material in it. To return some of the themes and motifs of the " bubble phase " of the hike later in the "descent" in a transformed form ( as a reversal ) again. It is the work most suited to look at it as a final and highlight the previous in the second half of the 19th century symphonic poems.


First sketches for the Alpine Symphony date from 1900, the year of Nietzsche. Strauss was planning a symphonic poem under the working title " Artist tragedy " that should be the fate of originating from the Swiss Emmental portrait painter Karl Stauffer -Bern. He died in 1891 in mental derangement. Stauffer -Bern was an avid mountaineer. The musical representation of a mountain climb was one of several planned sections in the presentation of the biography Stauffer. In 1902, Strauss extended the concept to a four-movement symphony, the first movement of the mountain climb, the remaining sets should contain additional themes from Stauffer's Vita. Working title was now " The Antichrist, an Alpine Symphony ". The title shows that Strauss the figure Stauffer identified with the person of Nietzsche and his philosophy. The first set was outlined pretty far and contains essential pieces in the shape of the final version. Nevertheless, the work remained lying. In 1910, while working on Rosenkavalier Strauss began work on the first sentence again. By 1913, probably made ​​the decision to make the first sentence a stand-alone piece. Until the latest sketches into the work was " The Antichrist, an Alpine Symphony " hot. Only in the score fair copy, which was completed after a hundred days of work on February 8, 1915 we find the final title. The first performance with the Dresden court orchestra was on 28 October 1915 in Berlin under the baton of the composer.


There are numerous recordings of the Alpine Symphony. Among the best known are those with the conductor Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan, Christian Thielemann, André Previn, Fabio Luisi, Rudolf Kempe and Antoni Wit. Some emphasize rather the ornamental - superficial aspect of the work, while other conductors to be able to recognize metaphysical structures in him my. With the composer himself conducting also exists a recording.