A Hero’s Life and Nietzschean Struggle in Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben
Nietzsche influenced Strauss throughout the composer’s mature career, from Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 (1896), which shares the same name as the treatise by Nietzsche, to Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64 (1911-15), which initially bore the title Der Antichrist, after Nietzsche’s 1888 essay. Nietzsche, through Zarathustra, stresses the idea of the Übermensch, which proposes that the human occupies the stratum between the primal and the super-human. The Übermensch is not, however, the zenith for a man. The goal for man is rather his journey toward self-overcoming, his struggle within himself. In Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life, 1898), Strauss incorporates Nietzschean concepts without any direct references to Nietzsche. The designation of a man as a hero, the battle as an obstacle with which one struggles, the alternation between peace and war and the cycle of recurrence in this tone poem all reflect Nietzsche’s ideas. This research considers the tone poem from a hermeneutical perspective and argues that Strauss’s hero in Ein Heldenleben embodies qualities encompassing the true Nietzschean hero.