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  • Carnegie Hall Presents
  • ZH Zankel Hall
  • SA/PS Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
  • REW Resnick Education Wing
  • WRH Weill Recital Hall

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Tuesday, March 19, 2019 8 PM Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
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Andris Nelsons by Marco Borggreve, Renée Fleming by Andrew Eccles
This all-Strauss program of vocal splendor and orchestral thrills will leave you breathless. The tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra will be familiar to most for its opening “Sunrise,” the iconic passage used in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey—but that’s only one episode in a mysterious and marvelous work. From later in his career is Capriccio, his final opera, which opens with a passionate string sextet instead of a traditional overture and culminates in a rapturous monologue that ranks as one of Strauss’s finest soprano showpieces.

Part of: Orchestral Masterworks

Boston Symphony Orchestra is also performing November 19 and March 20.

Renée Fleming is also performing October 3.


Boston Symphony Orchestra
Andris Nelsons, Music Director and Conductor
Renée Fleming, Soprano


Sextet, Moonlight Music, and Final Scene from Capriccio
Also sprach Zarathustra

Sponsored by Deloitte LLP

At a Glance

Richard Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio, and his tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra date from opposite ends of his long career, with some 45 years separating them. Capriccio was completed in 1941 and first performed in 1942. Such was Strauss’s status as a composer that he was able to produce an opera in Munich in the heart of wartime. Capriccio contemplates the question of the primacy of music vs. words in opera, symbolically represented by the heroine’s need to choose between two suitors—poet or composer. The 10-minute Sextet, which takes the place of an overture, is revealed when the curtain rises as music being played within the opera in a performance attended by the characters. Like an overture, it foreshadows the opera’s tone. The Moonlight Music, from near the end, sets the stage for the final scene, in which the Countess Madeleine contemplates the difficulty of choosing between her two suitors.

Although the opening moments of Strauss’s 1896 tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra are recognizably one of the most famous passages in music—even predating its fame as part of the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey—the complete work is less frequently played than Don Juan or Till Eulenspiegel. Its origin as Strauss’s musical response to an important but mystical and controversial philosophical treatise by Friedrich Nietzsche makes its concept perhaps less immediate than the rest of the six great tone poems Strauss wrote between 1888 and 1898, but its musical features are just as dramatic and brilliant. Following the famous “Sunrise” passage, its episodes evoke sections from Nietzsche’s big poem, including “Of Pleasures and Passions,” “Of Science and Learning,” “The Convalescent,” and several others. Strauss makes his points in a purely musical way, using the opening fanfare as a motivic touchstone through the emotionally far-ranging narrative.

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