Also Sprach Zarathustra, by Richard Strauss: a Song Review

General Information:

-Album Title: 2001: A Space Odyssey

-Artist: Richard Strauss

-Release Year: 1968

-Song Length: …on the above album about 1:49… in the original context around 30 minutes

-Genre: Orchestral Tonal Poem

-How to Listen: Spotify (linked below), or look for it at your local library!

-Page of Reference in RPO: 107

Some Background:

Since this is an Orchestral piece there aren’t any lyrics to discuss so I felt like some history on this piece and its larger composition was important.

For this I will only be reviewing the first piece made vastly popular by the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. This section called “Sunrise” is one of the most recognizable pieces of orchestral music in cinematic history particularly on the science-fiction circuit.

This Tonal Poem was written and conducted by Richard Strauss in the late 1800s and was based off of a book written by Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.  Strauss wrote the full composition to be played in succession with only three distinctive pauses.  The piece follows Zarathustra’s philosophical journey, mirroring what he experienced in the novel of the same name.

There is scholarly debate about the ending of the composition.  It ends in two keys with a unfinished finality.  Some speculate this is because Strauss didn’t appreciate Nietzsche’s ending for Zarathustra.

The full composition has been recorded many times over the years first in 1935.  Many orchestras have performed the piece but it is most well known for the Berliner Philharmoniker’s performance for the soundtrack of 2001: A Space Odyssey.


There isn’t a lot to say about this piece other than I learned something from looking up more information about it to get a better sense of it on it’s own.

Honestly I feel that you need the context of the piece within the film or in the grander scheme of it’s full composition to fully appreciate the depth and story that it tells.

I’ve never been a huge fan of orchestral music on its own.  I am a visual person and I work in film, TV and theatre.  I find that orchestral music on its own while beautiful often feels empty to me without the visual context of how it is used.  Basically you won’t find me sitting in a concert for an orchestra…which really is my loss in the end since I know how incredible those shows can be.

Overall, a beautiful composition but when viewed without the context of the film… or the rest of the music that follows I feel like this piece is just what it is.

The most well known and recognizable piece of science-fiction orchestral music in the world…and really nothing more.


Rating: 2 out of 5.

(would be higher in the full context of the visual in 2001: A Space Odyssey or withing the full composition…)